Taco Bell Diet…Drive-Thru or Drive Away?

Move over Jared, it looks like Christine has taken the spotlight away from the Subway and has put it on Taco Bell.  With the heavy advertising done by Taco Bell over the past two weeks, I’ve already started to get several questions about the “Drive-Thru-Diet”. 

For those who have not seen the commercials yet…Christine, the spokesperson for “The Drive-Thru-Diet”, lost 54 pounds over the course of two years by switching her fast food choices to the Fresco items on the Drive-Thru Diet menu at Taco bell.  If you read her story, you will also find that she consumed 1,250 calories per day.  This was a reduction of about 500 calories per day compared to what she was eating before.

So what made her lose the weight?

a.)    The Taco Bell Menu items

b.)    The reduction in the number of calories she consumed daily

 If you answered B, you are correct!  Weight loss comes down to calories consumed versus calories burned, and it does not matter where those calories come from.  By creating a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day, you expect to lose about 1 pound per week.  This is exactly what Christine did.

 The 7 Fresco items on Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet menu are lower in calories than many fast food items.  All of them have less than 350 calories and <8 grams of fat.  Therefore, they can be some of the better choices if you are going to be eating fast food.    

However, would I recommend eating these items regularly to lose weight?  No, I wouldn’t.  While they may be better choices than many items on a fast food menu, they are not great.  Many of the items are very high in sodium.  For example, the Fresco Burrito Supreme has a whooping 1,410 mg of Sodium, which is over half of the recommended level for the entire day!  The Chicken soft taco and Steak soft taco only has 2 grams of fiber.  When meals are low in fiber they often leave people feeling hungry shortly after eating and can make it difficult to meet the recommended 25-30 grams per day.  Not to mention, all of the vitamins and minerals that are lacking. 

If you are short on time, frozen entrees would often be a better choice.  They are still processed and high in sodium, but the sodium is often less than what you would find in fast foods (~500-600 mg).  Many of them also include a serving of vegetables.  Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Kashi and Smart Ones are some of the better options that are calorie controlled.  Have yogurt or a piece of fruit along with it to add some nutrition value.

Bottom line, if you need to stop at a fast food restaurant.  The items on the Drive-Thru-Diet at Taco bell are going to be some of the better choices.  All fast food restaurants now offer some healthy options.  Reading the nutrition facts before ordering can help to make better choices.  Click here for some tips on making good choices when eating at fast food restaurants.  Check back next week for more fast food menu items that are less than 500 calories.