October 3, 2007

ADA Conference: Chick-Fil-A? Really? No. Really. Are You Serious?

Among some really wonderful vendors -- the almond board, the California Avocado Commission, the pear board, LaraBar, Barbara's whole grain cereals -- at the ADA conference expo showroom, there were several scattered companies that made the nutrition record in my head come to a screeching halt.

Case in point: Chick-Fil-A.

That's right -- the fast food joint famous for its chicken sandwiches.

Their stand attempted to transmit humanity (as you can see from their "saving cowz never getz old!" poster; how this cancels out the fact that thousands of chickens are slaughtered to make their sandwiches, I don't know) and a commitment to nutrition (by advertising their products as "handmade" and fried in peanut oil).

"Handmade" is one of those bottom-of-the-barrel adjectives when it comes to food advertising. It indicates absolutely nothing. You can handmake whole, nutritious food, or fatty foods that offer nothing but empty calories.

I could handmake a whole wheat sandwich chock full of hummus and vegetables in the same way that I could handmake a 500 calorie donut loaded with sugar.

Furthermore, while peanut oil is a healthier choice than, say, lard, frying in oils -- no matter what the source -- simply adds extra calories to a food. Besides, let's not forget that what they are frying in the peanut oil contains a significant amount of saturated fat.

A quick glance at Chik-Fil-A's nutrition info makes it clear they are nowhere near the health-conscious business they are making themselves out to be.

For instance, a chicken breakfast burrito provides 35% of the daily saturated fat limit and 39% of the maximum recommended intake of sodium.

One of their cookies and cream milkshakes will set you back 790 calories and add 33 grams of fat to your day (that's half of what you should be getting in a whole day, if you eat 2,000 calories) and provide a whopping NINETY percent of your saturated fat recommended maximum intake!

While none of their chicken sandwiches creep past the 500 calorie territory, they are still laden with sodium (we are talking four digit numbers here), provide minimal fiber, and contain significant -- albeit not overly alarming -- levels of saturated fat.

Although I give Chick-Fil-A half a brownie point for having absolutely no trans fats in their food (even in their fries, which is something McDonald's should take a cue from), I was disappointed to see their presence at an American Dietetic Association expo. They were as out of place as a bowl of condoms in a convent.

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