In the new Wendy’s commercial for its Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt, the company features happy, healthy, beautiful actors enjoying themselves in a sunny outdoor environment munching away on the fries. The voiceover says "we believe our new natural cut fries just taste better."
Taste, convenience and the price point continue to lead fast food product development while our country faces a health crisis with rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Instead of launching healthier products with fresher ingredients, the fast food industry creates new products that just sound healthier.
In the case of Wendy’s, they can’t even make their fries an all-natural product, according to a recent Yahoo! News story. In the article, Wendy’s CMO Ken Calwell said it would be too difficult because of fast food customers’ demands for cheap food that can be hoisted through a car window.
“People are saying they want high integrity ingredients, things their grandmother would have used, that don't look like they came out of a chemistry lab," Calwell said in the article. "But they're also saying I've got a family to feed and can only afford to spend about $4 on my lunch, and I've only got about a minute or two to eat it."
So how can these fries have natural in the name?
The 100 percent Russet potatoes go to a processing plant and skip the step of steaming their skins off. That’s it. Forget organic potatoes or leaving behind nasty chemicals in the processing plant.
Once they get sliced, the fries are sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate, a chemical that prevents them from turning brown when they are fried twice—once at the factory and the other at the store. Then they get a sprinkle of dextrose, a corn-derived sugar.
The nutrition information listed on Wendy’s website shows that a large size of these fries contains 520 calories, 25 grams of fat and 630 milligrams of sodium—or about half the sodium found in a single quarter-pound burger.
“I don’t think the words ‘natural’ and ‘fast food’ should ever be used in the same sentence,” said Jennifer Blanchard, a Houston-based AADP-certified holistic health and food allergy coach.
As of 2010, Houston was leading the nation in childhood obesity with about 36 percent of children aged 6 to 17 overweight and another 19 percent considered obese. Texas also has five of the “Fattest Cities in America” including Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso.
“We need to find ways to support people in making better food choices,” Blanchard said. “We can’t do that as effectively when influential companies, such as Wendy’s, are allowed to advertise their products as “natural” or “healthier.”
If you really want to satisfy a fry craving, Blanchard said to make a similar version at home.
“I love fries, but I choose to make my own at home that I cut from fresh potatoes and then bake in the oven with some olive oil,” she said. “Or if I’m pressed for time, I buy a bag of frozen organic fries that have about three ingredients and bake those.”
Suzanne Boothby is a Brooklyn-based wellness author and writing coach who dabbles in social media and marketing. She is also the co-founder of NY Family Wellness. Visit www.suzanneboothby.com to learn more.