My heart leapt when a friend sent a link with the title “20 Worst Foods in America 2009.” A dozen possibilities raced pell-mell through my fevered brain — Did they mean worst-tasting foods? Worst foods for the environment? Most expensive foods? Most boring foods?
But when I got to the website, it turned out to be a magazine with the worst (in this case, most yawn-provoking) title I can imagine: Men’s Health. I think I’d rather read a magazine called Zebra’s Health, or Orangutan’s Health. Anyway — you guessed it! — their idea of Worst Foods in America is based solely on number of calories and amount of fat.
This kind of reductivist thinking is what leads to fatness in the first place. (“Ahhhh, if I go for the hamburger without the bun at Appleby’s, then I can go ahead and drink that two-liter bottle of Coke sitting in front of me.”) But it’s the underlying assumptions of the piece that really make the name “Men’s Health” a colossal joke.
You’ve seen this tired formula for an article a dozen times before — rummage through the nutritional information for franchise fast food spots and then laugh at the astronomical calorie counts and fat contents. But never question eating in fast food joints because that might discourage advertisers. The real advice they should be giving you is: Stay away from places that serve over-processed food (with lots of corn syrup, “cheese food product,” and additives) entirely, or eat in them rarely. Get some fresh veggies, throw in a little meat, chicken, tofu, or fish if you want, and cook the stuff at home.
Other assumptions underlying the article are also entirely whack from a nutrition standpoint. For example, for each franchise restaurant, they “out” the bad entrée, but then recommend another entrée that’s supposed to be virtuous. Thus, one is advised at California’s In-N-Out Burger to pick the burger wrapped in lettuce without the bun, because it will save a few calories. Dudes, it’s not really a burger if you have to eat it without the bun. Why not just eat the freezer-burned, rancid-tasting patty by itself? (I’m talking about places like McDonald’s here — the ground beef at In-N-Out is actually fresh tasting and excellent.)
Men’s Health still believes in the Atkins diet, which has been thoroughly discredited by nutritionists. Carbs are essential to life and happiness. If you want to get healthy, stay out of restaurants with long-frozen, shipped-from-across-the-globe, over-processed foods tendered in humongous servings. Eat less, and keep your nose out of Men’s Health.