We read an article in the Washington Post the other day that made some claims about healthy fast food concepts like sweetgreen and LYFE Kitchen being “too good to be true,” indicting us for hooking customers by “rely[ing] on the junk-food trinity of fat, salt and sugar.” The article by Arun Gupta essentially slammed fast casuals for tricking consumers with a health halo and supported fast-food consumption for its speed, convenience and cost-per-calorie ratio.
We believe the article encourages a dangerous way of thinking. And quite frankly, this perspective is how we ended up with a broken food system in this country.
Today’s fast food is the result of a post-war industrialized food system — machines were built to process food quickly for growing families in the baby boom. Bread got more white, and vegetables got less natural. These practices grew popular because it got cheaper — and the system got better at marketing itself. But the thing is, fast food is barely food. It’s high in calories and low in nutrients. It’s not intended to nourish.
Newly released nutrition guidelines advocate consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat foods, and suggest limited consumption of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, which are found in red meat, cheese, eggs and ice cream.
Fast food relies on calories to fill consumers, but not all calories are created equal. A calorie is a measure of energy, not nutrition. 100 calories of chocolate are not the same as 100 calories of nuts.
The article also teeters on vilifying fats in one blanket statement, but there are different types of fats — 5 grams of butter are very different from 5 grams of extra virgin olive oil. Plus, your body needs fat to support many of its functions. We embrace “healthy fats,” like avocado, extra virgin olive oil and nuts — items that have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are proven to have positive effects on cognitive function.
A discussion solely around fats and calories is shortsighted, and doesn’t consider the nutritional density of fiber, unsaturated fats and protein. Further, obesity has been linked not with fat or calorie consumption, but with sugar consumption.