Thursday, November 11, 2010
The Curious Case of McRib & Men’s Health
“As much as I love ribs there is one part that I hate: the ribs,” jokes Stephen Colbert while lambasting one of the more curious eating phenomenons’s in US history. Apparently in some areas folks have lined up around the block for this odd food item that more resembles something you’d see in one of those old toy ovens that served plastic food than, well, anything that we might eat that comes from nature.
How McDonald’s gets people to buy this is a marvel, but to make it into bad behavior week you’ve got to do more than peddle a suspect product. So today’s example of people behaving badly goes to Men’s Health magazine for their article titled:
McRib’s Return: Go Ahead, Have One
I might let this slide if this were, say, Smoke Signals or Gourmet (though I’m sure their editors wouldn’t), or pretty anything down at the corner newsstand. But Men’s Health, seriously?! They—which I say because the piece has no author—even take an uppity tone with The View’s Joy Behar for panning it,
Joy Behar makes a big point about the McRib having a lot of fat. Really? The first rule of fat loss is to not overeat, and a 500-calorie sandwich isn’t a waist-expanding indulgence, no matter how many of its calories come from fat.
Um, really?! How many readers does this magazine have? This is their editorial staff‘s “first rule of fat loss”. Let me borrow a phrase from my buddy Jack LaLanne about charlatans, “these people should be in jail.”
Not overeating is not a rule of fat loss. It’s a concept that has a few hooks on it, namely that you need to make a nutrient swap. Using their example you’d be well off on a diet of gummy candies and Diet Coke just so long as you didn’t overeat. I submit that you’d be dead within a month.
Our society is fat because we eat too many calories and too few nutrients. The first rule of weight loss (fat loss is a silly term—the goal is body composition change that comes from lifestyle) is the change the nutrient ratios of the foods you eat so that you get more nutrients per calorie. Dropping calories without assessing the nutrients that you are consuming will lead to nutrient deficiencies and other assorted health problems.
With this in mind, let’s have a look at the health costs of the McRib:
First off, we don’t really know what this food is. As Colbert points out, it’s not a rib. It smells and tastes like ribs but McDonald’s artificially flavors all of their foods to taste like anything it wants, in this case an actual pork rib that’s been cooked on a BBQ. Fast food chemists could make newspaper taste like ribs, too. Unlike natural foods, the way fast food tastes has absolutely no relationship to what is in the actual food.
If you’ve read any number of books on the subject you will know that animal raising practices of the fast food companies is abysmal. Dennis Miller once had a routine where he said something like, “39 cents for a burger. That’s less than what it costs to feed my dog. What’s in that stuff?” And, sure enough, many dog food companies have better animal raising practices than McDonald’s. All you know for sure is that it’s pork of some kind, and it’s most likely along the lines of pork by-products.
Labeling practices are lobbied heavily by, well, everyone but the meat industry draws a lot of water in this area. Independent studies all show that organically raised animals have a higher nutrient ratio than those that are mass produced but labels, by law (or lobbyists) can’t reflect this. Still we see that about half the McRib calories come from fat. Given that it includes a high calorie bun and condiments, which contain very little fat, we know that the meat contains an absurdly high ratio of saturated fat to protein.
So the small amount of nutritional information that we know is already bad, which doesn’t factor in that you’re eating an animal that is basically a toxin waste bin by the time it’s slaughtered. These animals are raised on mass amounts of antibiotics to keep it living in horrendous conditions, fed basically junk foods, and injected with any number of hormones to increase the size of various body parts and speed at which it grows.
Then you must add the rest of the ingredients, most of which are “convenience” foods that are fortified (with a few lobbied-for vitamins) by-products of genetically modified soy and corn production. These processed foods are bleached, so they all of their natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, bacteria, and other phytonutrients that are essential for life to the point where, basically, you’d do better nutritionally to dumpster dive for 500 calories because it at least might have picked up some living matter.
The bottom line is that the McRib is 500 calories, with 22 grams (88 calories) of protein. The remaining 420 calories are void of anything helpful for your body. Eating foods like this is exactly why we have an obesity epidemic and, as a nutritionist, this is exactly the kind of thing that I recommend cutting out of your diet as step one. That something calling itself “Men’s Health” is recommending it should be a crime, and is certainly reason to gain entry into the people behaving badly club.