Fast Food's Healthful Makeover: Truth or Perception?

Berry almond chicken salad at Wendy's
Berry almond chicken salad at Wendy's
Pinterest/Wendy's

Recently, Wendy's rolled out flatbread sandwiches and McDonald's added a yolk-less breakfast sandwich to their respective menus. Taco Bell has indicated its desire to shed its junk food persona. Giving alternatives for healthful eating has become a main strategy for fast food restaurants. And the effort seems to be paying off. Nation's Restaurant News reported an improved impression of fast food among the health and fitness-oriented in YouGov's assessment of brand perception.

Think Progress calls efforts by chains like Wendy's and McDonald's "superficial, " warning us not to be fooled by the new additions as these so-called improvements are actually rather minor in value. That Egg White Delight at McDonald's is only 40 calories less than the regular version. Burger King's turkey burger racks up 530 calories per sandwich.

And sometimes, the trick to a more healthful image is all in the presentation. AdAge points out how Wendy's vilifies the word 'frozen' in their marketing campaign to showcase its hamburgers made from fresh beef, which "capitalize on consumers' negative perceptions of frozen food."

In comparison, Subway has long pursued a reputation for having more healthful selections. It's likely why the chain tested better in YouGov's measure of public perception. It's been 15 years since Jared Fogle, then a college student, embarked on an all-Subway diet and lost over 200 pounds in a year as a result -- which led to his current job as a spokesman for the sandwich brand. As USA Today says, Subway has developed "a health halo in the form of a bespectacled guy who is one part nerd and one part superman."

So what do you think: Truth or perception? We're the audience, after all.

And in related news:

- McDonald's to Make Yolk-Free Egg McMuffins: Or, More Ways to Combat Obesity!

- Americans Get 11% of Calories From Fast Food

- Top 6 Fast Food Items We're Guessing Michelle Obama Would Ask You to Avoid


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @chrstnchiao.

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