January 31st, 2011
01:15 PM ET
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In light of both the class action lawsuit alleging that Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" is in fact insufficiently beefy and the USDA's new dietary guidelines, Newsroom's Kyra Phillips and I chatted about the role of personal responsibility when it comes to your nutritional intake. (That is assuming that you're lucky enough to have a choice in the matter - as author Lawrence Ross pointed out on Twitter.)

Knowledge is power, but are you harnessing it for yourself?

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. The_Mick

    My budget shows that in January I didn't do any restaurants, though I made dates with friends to try out a Tex-Mex and an Indian restaurant in February ($100 coupons for $40 from restaurant.com). I had fast food twice in January: I stopped at McD's once (medium Qtr Pounder w cheese meal, and since I had a coupon, a filet o fish) and at Pizza Boli's (3 pieces of a 16" mushroom and sausage pizza) once. Both times I knew I was pigging out and eating something in the neighborhood of 700-1000 calories. But I have a 3 restaurant/takeout visit per month rule and that's not going to make me fat. I'm having tilapia, a small nuked potato and green veggies for dinner tonight, Martha Stewart's Savory Fall Stew tomorrow, and maybe meatloaf or baked chicken or slow-cooked beef or pork with oven fries after that. My cholesterol is 128-157 every time it's measured. That's typical of what I eat, so I'm not worrying about the calories from rare pig-out days when I just want to enjoy myself.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  2. Megan

    I used to eat fast food – but I became pescatarian 6 months ago and really haven't since. Sure, I'll go to McDonald's to get fries so I can eat it with my "chicken" sandwich (Quorn chick'n patties are the best!) or late night nachos from TBell but that's about it.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  3. JBJingles@Sarah in Texas

    Could it be that 43% of people reading Eatocracy on CNN wesite are maybe a tad more conscious of their food decisions that the entire country at large?? Thank you.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Sarah in Texas

      No. Delusional.

      February 1, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  4. jillmarie

    I always look at the nutritional information. Nowadays, companies will even post it on their websites- so I look there beforehand so I don't have to ask for the info while I'm there.
    After watching Supersize Me, I was inspired to ask chain restaurants for that info. I was met with baffled staff, who would usually have to get their manager, who had to look around for a long time to find it! I'll do them a favor and look it up myself.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  5. Sarah in Texas

    The people answering these polls are delusional. If 43 percent of people make "smart decisions" regarding their diet, then why are only 33% of Americans at a healthy weight? Please.

    February 1, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  6. thomibear94

    I think it's fair to point out that many fast foot joints buy hamburger and patties that have other things mixed in with it like soy and fillers to 'water down' their product so that it stretches further (not sure about the grammar). C'mon, it's fast food for cryin' out loud! Thankfully many are taking the hint to have more somewhat healthy items on their menus, but those items are limited and hardly for the picky at heart. I rarely eat at any fast food place myself except for when on four-hour road trips that require a leg stretch or when cooking dinner is an afterthought after a long, busy day. I think the last time I ate at Taco Bell it was to get a chalupa and one of those stuffed talking Chihuahuas. I much prefer Carl's Jr for their Taco Salad (no meat, extra beans, please).

    February 1, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  7. From You

    Get back to work

    February 1, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. Amber Gallo

    Hey K, long time no hear...

    February 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  9. K. Buck

    Hi Amber

    February 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  10. K. Buck

    Strike 3 you're out

    February 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  11. Amber Gallo

    I like everything......give me food

    February 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  12. jackB

    I think anyone who eats fastfood does't really care about their health anyway. Tattoos? Way to run off topic. FYI, I used to date a girl with tattoos, She was delicious.

    February 1, 2011 at 5:12 am |
  13. LEB

    The option not given in this quiz was "I do, and I adjust my calories for the rest of the day based on this information." That's what I do.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  14. Hi 76

    In hospitals of Eastern Europe, where there has been no repair for 10 years, no heat. Everything is paid. In northern Bulgaria to give bribes to watching a nurse. Most Gypsies are worse, some of them die because doctors do not care for them. See it in 7plus7. net

    January 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      I once had to give a bribe to the ypsy in Bulgaria to point me to the tatoo parlor next to the McDonalds so I could get my Grade D Beff Burger.

      January 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        If you post under my name, at least make it funny and use correct spelling. Thanks.

        February 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Charlotte

    If I ever had the misfortune of being stuck and having to eat at a fast food joint – which I am happy to report hasn't happened in about 20 years – you darn well better believe I want to know exactly what I'm eating, down to the last gram and calorie. Rumor has it they offer 'healthy' choices now. Not sure I believe it, but I sat next to MacDonald's VP for marketing on a flight last summer and she assured me it's true :) But I almost always eat at home or bring my lunch to work, and when I'm on the road if it's a choice between fast food and going hungry then I choose to go hungry. I stop at the first grocery store I can find and pick up things I can keep in my hotel room – like carrots, good bread, fresh broccoli, apples, bananas. Infinitely better than going to a fast food or chain restaurant!

    January 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  16. McDouble

    Looking at the nutrition label doesnt make my wallet any fatter. I go to fast food places because I dont want to spend a bunch of money on better food, when I do fast food it is almost exclusively the dollar menu. I refuse to pay over $5 for fast food, there are MUCH better places to go to once you reach that tier.

    January 31, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. Truth@Kat

    Nice job!
    Let us know when you will be on again!

    January 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  18. LuLu

    How are we supposed to read it if it's not posted anywhere visible in the restaurant? Or on the wrapping?

    PS – Fast food nutritional information? Isn't that by definition an oxymoron?

    January 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Mike

      Well, since you're clearly using the internet to post comments, you can also use the internet to check nutritional information for most fast food places, and even many chain restaurants. Did you know that salads at chain restaurants typically have more calories than a burger? Most of them are full of sugar and salt to make them taste good, but all people see is “low fat”, and assume they’re healthy.

      February 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • 4U Mister

      Thank you. I think they are wasting time printing that stuff up. If I want healthy of course I don't eat there. Honestly, even the salad is suspect at some of those places.

      February 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  19. Mitch

    I am sorry but I just watched a woman with tatoos on both shoulders trying to advise me on how to eat healthy. The thing I cannot get past is the tatoos. I spent over 10 years of my life fighting Hepatitus C (which can be contracted while getting a tatoo via the needles) which I did not get from tatoos but rather a transfusion. In anycase, how credible can someone with tatoos be about eating healthy when obviously her lifestyle choices demonstrate poor judgement. I guess I am a bigot but I made sure I raised my child reinforcing the idea that tatoos were not a smart choice. I could go on & on but I think I have made my point. This is not just a rant about the woman, whose name I cannot remember, it is just bad judgement on the part of CNN to have "food editor" who looks as if she lives a lifestyle that is more unhealthy than the food she is warning us about.

    January 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • LuLu

      ^ Proof that tattoos lead to brain damage.

      January 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        You're an idiot, Mitch. Just the kind of closed-minded person I warn my daughter about.

        January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Queen of Everything

      Your post doesn't make you sound like a bigot, just like an uninformed hilljack. Quite honestly I'd be less concerned about your kid picking up hepatitis C from a tattoo than the other means in which they can contract it. I'm also teaching my child not to listen to people who think that reputable tattoo artist are spreading Hep C like wildfire to the populace.

      January 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Well, it's not as if I can do anything about 'em now - and I certainly don't want to. I'm sure I've made bad decisions (who hasn't?) but my tattoos aren't one of them (or, rather, 7 of them.)


      Are you more angry that I have them or that I showed them? I could have easily worn sleeves or a sweater, said the same words and you would never have known. I'm sorry if you don't care for them, but to dismiss an entire segment of society for their aesthetic choice (it's aesthetic - not a "lifestyle") means you'll never get to meet some of the most intelligent, entertaining, thoughtful and good-hearted people in the world. That is sad, and you're missing out.

      January 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
      • CatRain

        Thanks, Kat- I like your articles...I don't like mitch. Could you write an article on how to avoid the unhealthiness that is Mitch?

        February 1, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Truth@Mitch

      You are an idiot. Please crawl back under your rock.

      January 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • CatRain

      Seriously? I know plenty of tattooed people in excellent shape and that live very healthy lives. Your comment is like saying all people named Mitch are judgemental douche bags...

      February 1, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  20. 4U Mister

    If I read them I would never ever eat that food. But some labels don't need to be read. If you can't tell just by looking and smelling that the KFC is bad for you, if you can smell the grease, and ewww, the stains it leaves....then who needs a label?

    January 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Charlotte


      January 31, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Blondegeisha

      excellent point 4U,I don't expect "healthy" food from any of the fast food places,but every now and then I have a craving for a Whopper Jr with cheese. If I eat one every six months its big. If I want oatmeal I have plenty of that at home.

      January 31, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  21. Jess

    Fast Food makes me sick! Wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole...

    January 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  22. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I only do so I know how many Triscuits I have to eat later to make sure I stay regular. Amazing how little fiber is present in the #10 at Bob's Grease Trap.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  23. RichardHead

    I think what our Fearless Leader is trying to say-"With Real fruit Juice" when it only has 10% of said fruit. Is it real fruit to begin with? Labels tell alot,yet may not tell the truth. I don't read the things myself.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  24. Lynne

    Because of severe allergies, I always pay attention to the ingredient lists. If such lists are unavailable, I don't eat at that location. (This makes eating in airports a difficult task.)

    Caloric intake is a secondary consideration for me, but have you seen some of the fast food meals that have more calories than an average person ought to eat in a day? By "average person", I mean someone who is not doing serious mountain climbing, long distance foot races, or similarly heavy activity.

    600-700 calories at lunch? No problem: supper will just be 200 calories or so, then. But a 2000 calorie "super meal" or mega-gigantic milkshake? No way.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  25. wendy

    if someone pulls up to a fast food place expecting low calorie health food they're twisted. most folks that eat mcd's are going to eat it regardless of the number of calories/fat grams. if you want something 'healthy' go visit the salad bar at your local grocer's... when i'm in the need of something 'fast' such as on a road trip i'm usually getting the grilled chicken sammy plain with a side of honey mustard for dipping. and if i do order a whopper with cheese i'm definitely not going to check out the caloric intake cuz i'm quite positive if i did i'd miss out on the yummy flame grilled goodness. :)

    January 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  26. pinkTaco

    taco bell nasty!

    January 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  27. LD

    When it comes to food, there is ALWAYS a choice. One could CHOOSE to NOT eat fast food. If you are short on time (traveling,etc.) or cash, you could CHOOSE to pack a meal/snack before you leave or buy something in a store that is both filling AND healthy. There are lots of ideas and options out there, CHOOSE wisely!

    January 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  28. Grade D Beef

    9 years ago I pulled into a Taco Bell parking lot to buy some cheap, filling, fast food with full knowledge that it was not the best thing I could put in my body. There was a food services truck unloading boxes around the back. I stopped when I saw a box that read


    I left without going in and went home to eat. I haven't even stepped foot in a Taco Bell since, and never will again.

    Take responsibilty for what you put in your body, and do everything in moderation.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Urban Legend

      Once again...

      U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.[8]
      U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular "marbling") than Choice.
      U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.
      U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, lacking marbling.
      U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals.
      U.S. Utility
      U.S. Cutter
      U.S. Canner

      Those are the grades for beef – as you can see...no letters.
      I know this has been said before but ... meh, I said it again.

      January 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
      • Anita

        This is the something new I learned today! Thanks, Urban Legend!

        January 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        So where does Grade D belong in this list?

        January 31, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
      • AleeD

        So was the "US Grade A" scenario from the old Winn-Dixie (grocery stores) commercials and the "Grade D" something that was the norm from years gone by? Or was that an ad exec's idea of a lure to get you to buy?

        February 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  29. Cole

    With the intro and its numbers, I had a really stupid epiphany.

    The whole thing is a stunt (obvious) and the plaintiffs are going to cover themselves with the lab results. Taco Bell is right about their beef numbers... and so are the lab results. It comes down to the separation. The lab (guessing they were "in" on the scam/stunt), in separating the mixture, drew out a lot of the moisture/water from the ground beef. Yes, even the seriously overcooked and dry meat served by fast food places still have water in them. (On a tangent, places like 5 guys and in&out have juicy/moist burgers since their patties have a sick amount of fat) And, since you can't tell where the water came from (from the beef or added during cooking) the assumption (hoax) was made that Taco Bell watered down the beef.

    All this makes me want to read the original lab report.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  30. MT Miner

    the rare taimes I go for fast food, its going to be what i want, regardless of what the nutritional pitfalls are, a big mac 4 times a year, whopper, whatever is not the end of life as we know it.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  31. kck

    I read the information and use it in choices, when it's right there on the menu (which isn't often)

    January 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  32. Jerv

    I'd give folks the benefit of the doubt and say that most would use the information to make more informed choices. I certainly would and do.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  33. Tyrone Biggums

    I enjoy fast food. But since it's so bad for you, I only eat it when I have no other option (e.g. airports, road trips, etc).

    January 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  34. Evil Grin

    What, no shoutout? I didn't hear flamenon or chum!

    Just kidding. I don't read fast food labels. I will sometimes go online and look up the nutritional info, but I don't look at the ingredient list. Like you said, looking to Taco Bell to give you a balanced nutritious meal is dumb. You go there when you need cheap food, quick. If I went to Taco Bell often, I might be more interested in what's in it, but as it stands, as long as I don't get food poisoning, I'm happy.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Yeah. Now I demand to hear something definite.

      Something along the lines of "Hammerpants" should suffice.

      January 31, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Mike

      I don't know how we're all brainwashed, because I'm guilty of it too, but fast food isn't cheap anymore. I went to Wendy's the other day, $15 for two value meals!! I mean, burgers and fries shouldn't cost that much! In the end, fast food is fast, but it's not cheap anymore, we just still have that notion that it is.

      February 1, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • WWRRD

      I do the same. Never look at the restaraunt. I am am concerned I look it up online. IFor each place I have researched the "accaptable" choices and stick with those whenever I have to go for fast food.

      February 1, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  35. JBJingles

    I don't eat out at fast food places that often, but I have looked at the nutritional info when it first came out, and on occassion. Basically, I know it's not the best choice, but sometimes it just hits the spot, so I go there knowing that.

    January 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • SpedTeacher

      everything in moderation!

      January 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • John

      Agree with SpedTeacher. Moderation.

      February 1, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
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