Double Down Deadly

The Thinker by Rodin

Why is it that cigarettes come with prominent labels from the Surgeon General warning us about the unhealthy consequences of smoking, but not fast food?

By now, even smokers acknowledge that their habit is unhealthy and could kill them. For some reason we have not yet acknowledged the same is also true about most fast food and, increasingly, most of the food served at restaurants of all types across the United States.

As bad as cigarettes and tobacco products are for your health, arguably the unhealthy food sold at fast food restaurants is even worse. I am not advocating that you give up KFC and take up smoking instead, but if you had to choose between eating healthy and smoking versus a fast food diet and not smoking, arguably the former the healthier choice. Maybe all the antioxidants from a healthy diet would reduce your likelihood acquiring cancer from smoking.

As unhealthy as fast food is, you would think that fast food restaurants might be getting a clue. You would think that maybe they would be working to make their foods if not healthy, at least less likely to kill you. Instead, there is evidence that they are going the opposite direction. The latest really bad idea from the fast food industry comes from KFC, which invented a new “sandwich” so unhealthy that if he weren’t planted six feet under The Colonel would doubtless blanch. It’s called the Double Down Sandwich.

KFC's Double Down "Sandwich"

KFC’s original marketing germ was probably something like, “We need to invent a new item that emphasizes our core product and is different, saltier, greasier and thus more addicting than anything we have thus far developed.” The result was the Double Down “Sandwich”. I put sandwich in quotes because hitherto a sandwich has always meant some food (generally proteins) placed between two slices of bread. Instead, KFC replaced the buns with two fried chicken breasts and placed between them layers of bacon, cheese and one of KFC’s special sauces. The result is an innovative “entrée” with enough sodium to wholly cover your daily need. Of course, this assumes that you are not already salt sensitive, which many Americans are, in which case it will raise your blood pressure and possibly cause hypertension.

The good “news” about the Double Down Sandwich is that if you are not salt sensitive and you are a big believer in the Atkins diet, maybe you can lose weight eating one of these things. Granted one “sandwich” does have 540 calories, which means for most women three and a half of these a day (and nothing else) would satisfy your calorie requirements. With two chicken breasts it is packed with protein. Unfortunately, your body does not need a huge amount of protein. One grilled chicken breast a day is all the protein your body needs.

But hey, without the buns, it’s low carbohydrate, right? Well, that’s hard to say. So far, I haven’t been able to find the “nutritional” information beyond the calories, sodium and fat count (32 grams, which is about the total fat per day you should have on a low fat diet, 10 grams of which are saturated). However, the chicken breasts are slathered in KFC’s secret coating then vat fried, so there should be plenty of carbohydrates there. Cheese has carbohydrates as well, and their secret sauce is likely loaded with them in addition to the fat. So maybe Dr. Atkins would not approve.

Nor is this “sandwich” by any means the most egregious fast food entrée out there. If you have the stomach for it, check out some of these “entrees”. Taco Bell, for example, has a “salad” with 1490 calories, 60 grams of fat and 2540 mg of sodium. Restaurants have become clever by hiding their lack of nutrition under the guise of healthy food.

The Double Down Sandwich is notable because it is so in your face. I am sure there are some who can look at a picture of it and start salivating. Most of us though will instinctively recoil. It looks evil because there is not even a hint that there is something healthy about it. Adding a bun would be an improvement. Even if it were your standard bun made from white flour, at least it would have some modest nutritional value and the bun would contribute minimal fat and salt while helping to fill you up. Instead, KFC replaced the arguably healthiest part of its sandwich with something even far worse: two fried chicken breasts.

Now it is true that you can order a grilled chicken version of this “sandwich” with “only” 460 calories and “only” 23 grams of fat. For some bizarre reason, the grilled version though comes with more sodium: 1480 grams worth. However, don’t expect your Double Down Sandwich to serve chicken from free range chickens (although considering one “sandwich” costs about $5 you might assume as much). No, KFC like most fast food vendors gets their chicken from 52 facilities and 18 suppliers across the country that follow standards set by the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Food Marketing Institute. This means before your chicken was turned into a Double Down Sandwich, it likely spent its brief life in dark, dank and poorly ventilated poultry houses eating feed full of antibiotics. These antibiotics might in turn be lowering your resistance to many antibiotics. Perhaps the cows that supplied the cheese were pasture fed, but I wouldn’t count on it.

So print this entry out and cut out that picture of the Double Down Sandwich. This way, if tempted to eat fast food, particularly at KFC, a glance should dissuade you. It should make you take a beeline toward a Whole Foods store instead. Having said this, I expect the Double Down Sandwich to be a runaway success for KFC. Just as most American smokers for decades liked to pretend cigarettes were somehow natural and healthy, most regular American fast food consumers are the same way. They will be salivating as they approach the KFC. Doubtless, they will be buying the Double Down Sandwich instead of the garden salad because the Double Down is “real food” unlike that yucky green stuff. KFC stockholders will likely be very happy as well and now that they have upped the ante, and the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the world will be looking for “innovations” like this and wondering how they can out-grease it.