25 Fast Food Secrets—Revealed!
by David Zinczenko
Before I started Eat This, Not That!, I worked at a KFC.
There were a lot of steps in between, of course, but KFC was a great place for a fast-food addict like myself. Still, being on the inside taught me a lot about how fast-food companies operate, and most of what I learned would shock you.
See, for fast food companies, it actually pays to sell us more food for less money. We think we’re getting a bargain when we order the combo meal; in fact, it costs just pennies for a chain to produce the actual food that’s coming out of the window. The real costs are in the marketing, so the more money they can wring from each purchase, the better — regardless of how many empty calories they have to stick in the bag.
Here are some of the secrets the fast-food industry doesn’t want you to know. Learn them, lose weight and then don’t miss these new 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast.
1They want to
be in charge of what you order
be in charge of what you order
At hamburger chains, “combination meals” make up a whopping 31 percent of all purchases. The average combo packs 1,200 calories, and about ⅓ of those are from predetermined sides that the chain decided on for you.
2They all taste
the same for a reason
the same for a reason
Ever notice how different parts of a fast-food meal kinda taste the same? The burger, the fries, the onion rings, even the shake—they all taste like “fast food.” That’s because they’re all calibrated to appeal to our tastebuds in a way that inspires us to keep eating—not too meaty, not too vegetable-like. The part of our brains called the hypothalamus that responds to food evolved to crave a variety of sweet, salty, and bitter tastes, so we would munch on a variety of foods. But fast food is designed to satisfy all of these taste desires, so you never crave anything else (like a grapefruit, for example).
3Fast food is made
to be eaten fast
to be eaten fast
It takes 20 minutes for the “I’m full” signal to get from your belly to your brain. So the faster you eat that food, the more of that food you need to buy, and eat, because your brain doesn’t know you’re stuffed.
Slow down to speed up fat burning! Chewing slowly is one of the 55 Best Ways to Boost Your Metabolism!
4Fast food doesn’t need much chewing
Another trick to get you to eat more: The heaviest people chew their food 11.9 times before swallowing, while the thinnest chew 14.8 times, according to one study.
You’ll get fries with that, even if you don’t want them
It’s harder for you to say no to an offer when it comes directly from another person, according to a Eastern Illinois University study that found people will eat 85 percent more when servers offer them more. And to blast fat from your belly, and all day long, drink green tea. Science in The 17-Day Green Tea Diet shows it actually shrinks fat cells. For the complete plan—which includes delicious weight-loss smoothies—click on The 17-Day Green Tea Diet!
You’re not special
People are more likely to make unhealthy restaurant choices when they feel like they’re dining out for a “special occasion.” Remember, you go to this place all the time; just because there’s a clown there doesn’t mean it’s a party.
“Medium” is large
Duke University researchers discovered that chains often encourage customers to buy larger sodas by increasing the number of ounces in ALL sodas. That’s because people subconsciously pick the middle option, so the larger the “medium,” the more they can charge for it.
Today’s food packs more calories than the food from the 1980s
In fact, we now take in twice as many calories from restaurants than we did 30 years ago. Check out how much our food has swelled:
Pizza: 70 percent more calories
Cheeseburger: 75 percent more calories
French fries: 190 percent more calories
Your soda is dirtier than a toilet
Ice machines are notoriously difficult to clean, making them veritable petri dishes. In an award-winning science project, 12-year-old Floridian Jasmine Roberts compared the bacterial content in ice water and toilet water from fast-food restaurants. It was found that 70% of the time ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than the toilet water. In several cases, the ice tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which comes from human waste.
That’s not the only reason to skip the fountain drinks: Check out the Top 38 Diet Sodas—Ranked!
Your meat is chemically cleaned
Chemicals we normally associate with cleaning are purposefully put into fast-food meat. Why? Compounds like ammonium hydroxide can damage e. coli and other organisms. They also lower the acidity of meats and other foods, making it difficult for pathogens to survive. Is the practice safe? The USDA says yes. Does the idea of eating a chemically washed burger sound good? Not especially.
Flame grilling is phony
The grill marks on fast-food burgers and slabs of chicken are there to make us think the meat has been licked by flames. It’s more likely that those marks were branded on at the factory or painted with dyes. Smoke and char flavorings are added to complete the illusion. Yum!
That chicken nugget has been through a lot
A Reddit user named DFunkatron, who identifies himself as a former McDonald’s employee, recalls: " [...] I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long. They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets I once knew." How might that happen? It could be a quality of mechanically separated meat, a slurry created when the bones and carcass of a leftover chicken are mixed together in a food processor. When TV chef Jamie Oliver demonstrated what this goop might look like, McDonald's released a statement saying that the company "does not process any of its meat products in the manner that is described in the mechanically separated chicken story or photo.”
Back away from the barbecue! You can also find mechanically separated meat in one of your favorite cookout foods. See what it is here!
Some fast food looks too good for its age
In 2010, New York photographer Sally Davies put a McDonald’s hamburger and fries in a jar. Five months later, the food still looked edible while KFC fries bought and stored on the same day were white and furry with mold. Marion Nestle, chair of NYU's food studies program, told Salon that McDonald's would have to use "a lot of sodium propionate to prevent bacterial or mold growth." Davies continues to take photos of the same meal and post them on her website; as of July 2015 it has not noticeably disintegrated.
You can get eggs all day long — sort of
This year, McDonald’s began offering breakfast items all day long. Great news if you want an egg sandwich in the middle of the afternoon, right? Technically, no. That’s because eggs aren’t the only thing in McDonald’s eggs. Forbes writer David DiSalvo discovered that there’s also sodium phosphate (a preservative), citric acid and monosodium phosphate (added to preserve color) and nisin preparation (a preservative).
One of the benefits of cooking at home is that you know everything that’s going into your meal. Next time, skip the Mickey D’s drive-through and make an amazing at-home breakfast from the new Zero Belly Cookbook. It has more than 150 belly-flattening recipes!
There’s more to your salad than meets the eye
These days, many fast-food chains offer salads. But that doesn’t mean you could name much of what goes into one. How about propylene glycol? Many chains dust their salads with that chemical to keep the leaves crisp. It’s considered safe for consumption — and can also be found in antifreeze and sexual lubricants.
Speaking of salads, that Mexican version no es bueno
A “taco salad” sounds like a great way to enjoy a healthy meal from your favorite Mexican joint. But in fact, it’s really just a huge fried tortilla shell without ground beef, cheese, sour cream, and a few token shreds of iceberg lettuce. The result can weigh in at up to 900 calories and 55 grams of fat.
Your fast-food coffee could be making you sad.
Styrofoam cups can leach styrene, a neurotoxin that can cause depression and a loss of concentration. Highly acidic or hot beverages--in other words, coffee--draw the plastic compound out more effectively than, say, cold water would.
Bran muffins are actually cupcakes in disguise
One of the great health imposters, bran muffins are simply and excuse to get you to eat cupcakes for breakfast. Each can deliver about 440 calories, with nearly a quarter of them coming from fat.
Those guys in the Sonic commercial don’t really eat Sonic
If they did, they would each be about twice their size. Sonic is one of the most caloric chains in America, home of the “Grape with Nerds Candy Real Ice Cream Slush.” You know it’s not health food, but you probably have no idea just how bad this is: with 282 grams of sugar, the large size packs more than 70 sugar cubes’ worth, and 1,640 calories.
McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal may be the unhealthiest food on their menu
With 32 grams of sugar—more than you get in a bag of M&Ms—this healthy sounding breakfast food will start your day with a sugar high and a certain crash.
Long John Silver’s has hidden its nutritional data
Check out the LJS website; their nutrition data page has been taken down. What’s the fried-food purveyor hiding? Its breaded clam strips and battered onion rings have traditionally contained more than three days’ worth of trans fatty acids, while fish and chicken tacos both top 2,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. We’d hide, too. Instead, balance salt and protein perfectly with these 20 Best-Ever Soups That Burn Fat!
Sbarro’s “healthy” pizza is a health hazard
“Broccoli, Spinach & Tomato Pan Pizza”—that’s gotta be safe, right? Two slices will cost you 1,280 calories, 60 grams of fat and 2,600 milligrams of sodium.
A Subway Wrap will cost you 310 calories--before you put any fillings in it
While wraps seem healthier because they’re so thin, Subway’s version comes with an ingredients list a mile long and includes soybean oil and hydrogenated oil as the third and fourth ingredients—that translates to 8 grams of fat per wrap.
Quiznos’ sandwiches are sodium-delivery devices
Most top 2,600 milligrams each—that’s more than an adult man should eat in an entire day—culminating with their Ultimate Club Turkey Sub, the large version of which rocks your arteries with 3,710 milligrams.
Baskin-Robbins shakes feature wood chips and petroleum byproducts
You like Butterfingers? Then you’ll love Baskin-Robbins Butterfinger 31 Below Mix-In, with the sugar equivalent of 5 Butterfingers bars, as well as cellulose gum and cellulose gel (both terms for chemically digested wood chips) and Red 40, a dye made from petroleum. It also features TBHQ, a corrosion inhibitor used in biodiesel. Skip it, and instead got for these 20 Healthiest Orders at Fast Food Chains.
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