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The Lure of the 99 Cent Value Meal

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

In the bold take-no-prisoners maneuver, Burger King launched its 99-cent value menu. This 11-item offering blurs the line between the burger giant and its competitors by offering new items such as baked potatoes, chili and tacos.... yes, tacos.

Frankly, I kind of like the idea of one-stop shopping for my fast food fix. Of course, TASTE will play a big part in whether I start getting my tacos from BK rather than Taco Bell, or my baked potato and chili from BK rather than from Wendy's. I haven't tried any of the value menu items yet, but I am sure the day will come when I succumb.

Speaking of succumb... Scruffy, the tiny goldfish my son Jonathan won last week at the Bloomsburg Fair, has gone belly-up. In a touching memorial service, we placed him (her? it?) in his paper towel-lined bank check box coffin and buried him in the back yard last evening. Scruffy leaves behind a few fond memories, but no survivors... as far as we know. Jonathan wept over the loss, but we eased the pain of Scruffy's passing by promising a replacement fish soon.

Now here's a question for you, the fast food aficionado: Will your diet go belly-up if you succumb to the lure of Burger King's new offerings? Well, YES... and NO. Any diet can survive an occasional fast food outing. Simply choose wisely and watch serving size. You can get by just fine with a normal serving rather than a super-de-dooper, eat-it-with-a-shovel serving. Honest.

That being said... how much badness accompanies this fast food goodness? Well, the official Burger King website (www.burgerking.com) lists the nutritional info for the new offerings which include a grilled sourdough burger, bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, side garden salad, flame-broiled chili, 2 crispy tacos, ice cream shake, baked potato, soft drink, 5-piece chicken tenders, and fries.

Researchers tell us the average person eats outside the home something like 4 times a week. Whatever your individual case may be, why not have it your way when you dine out and opt for the healthiest, tastiest fare out there? I know cost plays nearly as large a role in your choices as taste, but there's no such thing as a free lunch... not to mention a healthy 99-cent one either. For our "cover shot" of the confused consumer besieged by BK's new menu offerings, we summoned our ever-ready model Nick Dominguez. You may recognize Nick. He's to the eDiets Worst of the Worst Foods mailers what Pamela Anderson is to Playboy (they got the better deal, believe me). Nick returned to the office feeling like he'd just left the Fast Food Confessional... the magic screen where you whisper (or shout) the foods you lust for.

The next time you drive by a Burger King, keep driving by. I don't know about you, but when I am confronted by a bunch of yummy-sounding foods, I tend to over-order and then overeat. Hey, it's only a buck, John... have one. Oh, and we have some loose change in the car console... let's put it to good use: a couple -- not just one, but TWO -- of tacos would really hit the spot... OK, so maybe it is just me, but someone is keeping the nation's fast food joints in business.

Bottom line: enjoy an occasional fast food lunch or dinner -- just don't make it a daily occurrence. Yes, breaking this habit may mean you'll need to actually set foot in a grocery store and do a little cooking. But, I bet you'll discover a whole new world of great-tasting, good-for-you foods awaits.

One more thing: I will have the nutritional numbers for the rest of BK's value menu offerings next week... if the corporate office serves 'em up to me.

UPDATE

Alas, my friends... I have failed in my quest to sample the infamous deep-fried Twinkie that's being touted as this year's must-try Fair food. While eating my way through, around and across the Bloomsburg Fair last week, I did not encounter this dastardly delight. However, thanks to my new friend Mary Jane, I can share the honest-to-badness recipe for deep-fried Twinkies. WARNING: Eat at your own risk. My intent here is to show you food marketeers can take a bad food and make it badder...

Mary Jane tells me this recipe for diet disaster appeared in the St. Petersburg (FL) Times.

Ingredients (for Twinkies): 6 Twinkies, Popsicle sticks, 4 cups vegetable oil, and flour for dusting.
(for batter: 1 cup milk, 2 Tbsp. vinegar, 1 Tbsp. oil, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt

Preparation: Chill or freeze Twinkies for several hours or overnight. Heat 4 cups vegetable oil in deep fryer to about 375 degrees.

To make batter: Mix together milk, vinegar and oil. In another bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk wet ingredients into dry and continue mixing until smooth. Refrigerate while oil heats. Push stick into Twinkie lengthwise, leaving about 2 inches to use as a handle, dust with flour and dip into the batter. Rotate Twinkie until batter covers entire cake. Place carefully in hot oil. The Twinkie will float, so hold it under with a utensil to ensure even browning. It should turn golden in 3 to 4 minutes. Depending on the size of your deep fryer, you might be able to fry only one at a time, two at the most. Remove Twinkie to paper towel and let drain. Remove stick and allow Twinkie to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6.

GROSS INJUSTICE...

And speaking of "bad foods," here's another sampling of your Worst of the Worst emails...

I used to work with a girl who, as a child, liked to eat raw bacon. She'd filch a piece or two from the pile her mom was frying for breakfast, just about every day. Yes, she was hospitalized for worms. My personal favorite is a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich, on toast. (Hey, don't knock it until you try it!)
Lisa Gibbs

As kids we made a "Dagwood" sandwich of our very own. We started with toasted commercial white bread, butter on one, mayo on the other, 3 slices of bologna, lettuce, potato chips and radishes. There were also toasted spaghetti sandwiches and white bread with butter and covered with sugar for a snack.
Geri

After the bars closed, and the after-hour parties were through, my guy friends would head over to Maryanne's Diner, which was an open 24-hour grease pit. The specialty at 4 a.m. was The Stack: a pancake rests at the bottom, next a cheeseburger topped with eggs anyway you like them, another layer of cheese, hash browns soaked in grease, and top it off with sausage gravy. It's a local favorite.
Otte

My brother-in-law used to go run 5 miles and then come home, melt a stick of real butter over an entire Sara Lee coffee cake and eat it all in one sitting. My mouth is drooling at the thought.
Bill Rector

NEWS 'n VIEWS

ITEM: Eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast are making a comeback
THE SKINNY: According to NPDFoodworld's Breakfast in America report, the traditional breakfast meal -- eggs and bacon or sausage -- is coming back into fashion. The consumption of these foods is reportedly up at a 10-year high. "Americans have probably wanted bacon and eggs all along," says Arnie Schwartz, vice president of NPD's National Eating Trends. "What has changed are attitudes. Taste is more important, health concerns have diminished and making a traditional breakfast at home is making a comeback."
GUT REACTION: Good morning graduates of Cholesterol High. Please ignore the early morning banging noises -- it's merely our arteries slamming shut! Don't get me wrong. I am a meat lover from way back, but news like this makes me want to crawl inside a bowl of high-fiber breakfast cereal.

ITEM: Our Eating Attitudes
THE SKINNY: An American Dietetic Association survey indicates 38 percent of Americans claim to have changed their diets to eat healthy. Thirty percent know they should eat better but haven't done it, and 32 percent are not concerned with healthy eating. GUT REACTION: The latter group is obviously made up of Arnie's friends (see above). Ladies and gentlemen, I applaud those of you who have chosen the path to a longer, happier life. As for the rest of you, what are you waiting for? Thanks to eDiets, there's never been a more perfect time to say so long fat, hello healthier lifestyle. Get started now and you can actually plunge into the food-choked holiday season with head -- and belly -- held high!

ITEM: 'Fat Man' lawsuit against fast food chains dropped; kids are new plaintiffs
THE SKINNY: Advisers to Caesar Barber, the overweight New Yorker who earlier this year filed a lawsuit against four fast food restaurants for allegedly making him obese, have publicly dismissed the suit. Overweight children will be the new plaintiffs in future litigation. George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf says a new lawsuit -- one that will argue that children are being lured into fast food restaurants with playgrounds and kids' meals and now are overweight as a result -- is being prepared.
GUT REACTION: Banzhaf has vowed to "sue them and sue them and sue them" (them being the so-called Big Food industry) in hopes a sympathetic jury and a multi-billion dollar payday will eventually follow. Have it your way, John. But wouldn't it be more productive to target parents and guardians... and get them to skip the drive-thrus and better steer their children's eating habits in the right direction?

ITEM: New meat analog cutlet designed to replace pork, veal and chicken in recipes
THE SKINNY: Meat industry observers say a few faux meats are giving meat competitors a run for their money. Most recently, Portland-based Gardenburger introduced a new soy-based Herb Crusted Cutlet that it says was designed to offer a versatile, meatless makeover for recipes that call for breaded pork, veal and chicken preparations. "Increasingly, contemporary cooks are looking for alternatives to meat, whether for health, safety or ethical reasons," said Wendy Preiser, vice president of marketing for Gardenburger.
GUT REACTION: While meatless meat ain't quite a treat for yours truly, I applaud this proliferation of pork-free patties, beef-less burgers and veal-shy vittles. Do me a favor: don't turn your nose up at a meat analog (they DO need a better term here) and refuse to try it. You may be surprised. I was stunned recently by a meatless breakfast sausage that mirrored the real deal in both the taste and texture departments. So don't be a meat snob. Your gut reaction may very well be... well, a smaller gut down the road!

FEEDBACK

The thing you mentioned about picking up a hobby rather than a snack has proved to be a boon to my dieting. Instead of sitting with a package of popcorn or potato chips while watching movies with my husband, I've been crocheting gifts for weddings, for babies or for Christmas. This year I'm making scarves for my whole family (including in-laws). I am rarely without a project and it's helped a lot!
Carolyn

I couldn't agree more with your last column (The Secrets of Successful Dieting). I have been watching my diet for about 6 months now and working out 5 to 6 days a week. I started off sticking to my diet every day but after the 2nd week I decided to splurge a little bit here and there. I now diet exactly the way you do. I don't even think of it as a diet anymore -- this a way of life. I eat healthy probably 85% of the time and the rest I allow myself to enjoy any type of food that I like in moderation. I have still lost weight and I've lost a ton of inches with the workouts. I don't miss any of my favorite foods because I allow myself "free times" to eat something I enjoy. Because of this I know I will be able to get the weight off and keep it off because this is a way of life now. I don't feel deprived at all and never feel guilty when I allow myself to splurge. I know the 15% of the time I eat junk food isn't going to sabotage my weight or my good habits and it's so much better this way.
Carol Fulton

Pizza without the cheese is a great option. When I first started ordering it, everyone looked at me like I was a freak. But now, many of my co-workers are hooked! (I never get meat toppings, either. Toppings such as pineapple, spinach, artichoke hearts, onions and mushrooms make for a pizza with lots of flavor.) Your readers ought to give it a try!
Liz

LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING

Harry and his wife happen to pass away on the same day and as they await their interview with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates they're approached by an angel.

"Hello," says the angel in a voice that sounds like TV game show announcer Don Pardo. "I'm your host Lyle and welcome to Heaven World. In a few moments you'll be entering through our famous Pearly Gates for the most exciting adventure of your afterlife. Your admission coupon entitles you to chauffeur-driven limousine service anywhere in the universe, plus deluxe accommodations at our luxury hotel with all amenities -- pool, Jacuzzi, indoor tennis courts, private trainers and more. Then after your day of fun and relaxation, dine at any of our 5-star restaurants savoring the finest of every cuisine known to man."

At this point, Harry elbows his wife in the ribs.

"What did you do that for?" she cries.

Harry shouts, "If it wasn't for you and that stupid oat bran, we'd have been here 10 years ago!"

ETC., ETC., ETC.

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