Dear John

I am a firm believer that you can create a healthy meal almost anywhere you go, whether it be fast food, chain restaurants, or the mom-and-pop diner.  I pride myself on my ability to do this.  I have stood in defense of McDonald’s when in the documentary, Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock tried to illustrate the reality of consuming McDonald’s for every meal for an entire month, only because I could do the same experiment and stay within healthy boundaries.  That being said, some restaurants have let me down in my pursuit to “keep it healthy.”   I’m a firm believer in moderation but if an establishment does not offer more than a handful of healthy options to pick from, I start to lose hope in them as a company and as an ally in my pursuit of health and happiness.  With this post, I am officially “breaking up” with a few places that have failed my test and because I feel bad about this, I frame each as a Dear John letter so as to soften the blow.  Fellas, I really have to let you go for good and move on with my journey to health…  look, it’s not me, it’s YOU…

Dear Friendly’s Restaurant,

This really isn’t working out.  Look, I don’t even know where to begin.  I guess we should start with facts.  You don’t have a sandwich on your menu that is less than 1000 calories.  Burgers are 1200 calories plus.  Your salads WITHOUT DRESSING range from 18 to 95 grams of fat a piece.  All of your salad dressings EXCEPT one have over 15 grams of fat.  And what is this:  A bowl of chicken noodle soup has 18 grams of fat.  How did you even DO that?  Then I think about how you treat kids.  Four of your 10 kiddie meals have 50+ grams of fat (not even counting side dishes).  I’m not sure my child even weighs 50 grams, does she?  I’ll have to check, but honestly in the meantime, we cannot go on.  I know you’ll say you are trying now, but it’s really too late.  Your attempts at creating a “light” menu by chopping sandwiches and other items in half is lame.  And why is the light menu “for a limited time only?”  Hedging your bets on me?  Friendly’s, I’m about to get Unfriendly.  Time for me to go.

P.S.  I stayed above the belt by not mentioning your dessert menu, so don’t push me.


Dear Burger King,

You have never made an effort.  The whole “charbroil” thing made me think you had something healthier than McDonald’s, but then I check your nutrition information to find the burgers are evenly matched (McDonald’s even HAS you by 1 gram of fat and 10 calories!).  What am I supposed to think?  If that’s not bad enough, you then do things that are blatantly unhealthy.  It’s like you do it on purpose.  You laugh at me when you see I’m trying.  You are now stuffing burgers with cheese?  The BK Stuffed Steakhouse burger has 34 grams of fat. Then the Steakhouse burger that is NOT stuffed is 61 grams of fat?  That doesn’t even make sense!   I’m tired of you hiding behind the one and only healthy option on your menu which is the Morningstar Veggie Burger.  Well, does Morningstar know that you’ve taken their 5 gram of fat veggie patty and converted it into a 16 gram of fat sandwich?   I’m writing them a letter!   I can buy those at the grocery story anyway. We are SO done.  Deuces!

P.S.  That plastic-y guy in your commercials?  WEIRD!  Get rid of him, he’s gonna scare the kids!


Dear McDonald’s,

I have a soft spot for you.  Nice memories you gave me of sharing fries with dad in the car when I was a kid.  I even defended you when other obesity researchers have made you the poster child for all that’s wrong with society. Maybe it’s because you have the best snack/dessert of all the fast food joints in the world:  the Vanilla Cone.  Weighing in at under 200 calories and costing me barely a dollar, this creamy deliciousness really is the perfect treat at 3pm.  I could never take that away from you.  But you’ve gone too far recently with the crapitization (new word, please start using) of oatmeal.  Oatmeal is the poster child for all that’s good and wholesome.  Lowering our cholesterol, expanding in our stomachs so we aren’t hungry for hours, all while making us feel good about ourselves in the morning.  Mark Bittman of the New York Times called you out: .  I can’t say he’s wrong.  How could you take this healthy substance and make it have the same calories as a cheese burger and more sugar than a Snickers?  I guess that’s what makes you McDonald’s.  I’ve been such a fool.  I’m not saying we can’t see each other again, but I don’t think we can do full meals together.  Let’s just stick with vanilla cones and not kid ourselves that there can be something more between us.   Sorry.


Dear Kentucky Fried Chicken,

I guess I just don’t understand you KFC.   I see you’ve been trying to be healthy with the whole grilled chicken thing and I respect that.  But, I ordered green beans and corn thinking I was making healthy choices, even your nutrition information told me the veggies had almost no fat.  If that’s true, then why were the veggies doused in butter?  I’m confused.  I don’t know what to believe anymore.  And what’s with your being attached at the hip with Taco Bell all the time?  I don’t get it: Kentucky, Mexico?  What’s the connection?  Plus Taco Bell has delicious high-fiber, low-fat bean burritos, and a low-fat Fresco menu.  How come they make an effort but you don’t?  I just think we just need to agree to disagree.  I’m moving on. If I want Kentucky-style chicken, I’ll just shake and bake, baby.


Dear PF Chang’s,

This one hurts the most.  I might even rent Bridges of Madison County tonight just to cry it out.  I thought everything was fine, the lovely stir fries on the menu and then you have even been so accommodating to stir in veggies of my choice when I ask for them.  We had it ALL together.  UNTIL.  I checked the Nutrition Information.  I feel like I’ve been living a lie.  The calories don’t look as bad as some of the other restaurants, sure a little high, but everyone has their faults.   The deal breaker came though when I saw the column on the Nutrition entitled “Servings Per Dish.”  Huh?   This is where my world turned upside down.   I guess I just don’t understand why your appetizers range from 1-8 servings when they are all about the same size.  Are you hiding something from me?   And then, why are all the lunch entrees 2 servings each?  Dinners are mostly 3 servings each?  They are!?  Since when!?  You never said this is “family style.”   I discovered my last meal there was (gulp) 1500 calories, and I thought I was being good.  Even your PF Chang’s “For Two” menu includes ONE appetizer and TWO entrees.  Why would you give me 6 servings of appetizer and 4 entree servings for TWO people?  Why would you do that?!   I need a mathematician to eat at this place. Look, things have just gotten too complicated.  We need to go on a break.  I’m going to need some time to sort this all out.  I want my chopsticks back.  Goodbye.

Well, it’s been a rough day for me, but misery loves company.  I would love to hear your break-up stories. Please share!

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  1. jess says:

    Nutrition Action Newsletter had a great writeup on pizza this month from Uno’s, Sbarro’s and CPK. I think some breakup letters are in order for these chains, too!

  2. Tremalien says:

    Those break up letters brought back some bad memories for me, at least you didn’t use the “it’s not you, it’s me” line.

    However painful, these break ups are definitely needed. I see so many people in bad relationships with their dining choices, that I want to call Dr. Phil and have him do a “Loving you is killing me” episode with people and the restaurants they love.

    Or maybe I’ll go a little lower class and start a series called “Eaters” where I secret video tape the bad things restaurants do to get us to eat more (as in PF Chang’s servings per dish) then have the offended person run up all Rambo style and confront them.

    Or we could lure Restaurant owners into a room with the promise of young minds to corrupt with their marketing and trans fats only they get surprised by Chris Hansen who makes them admit what they are truly doing to our health, we can call it “To Catch An Enabler”

  3. Julie Mulcahy says:

    It is a sad thing when consumers are trying to make healthy choices at restaurants and grocery stores and are tricked by labels and menus. When we read “healthy” “lite” and “all natural” we believe it to be true. Unless you carefully scrutinize labels and nutrition information you can be easily fooled. I am already teaching my kids how to read labels. They know high fructose corn syrup is BAD and we will not tolerate it in anything especially our bread! They also know Jif and Skippy peanut butter have hydrogentated yucky stuff besides peanuts and is BAD! Fruit snacks have NO fruit! When you cannot pronouce ingredients and there is a list a mile long…BAD! It seems you have to be an educated consumer or food companies may trick you into buying their products. I also wonder why school lunch menus are filled with high fat choices. What if unhealthy food wasn’t offered? Maybe kids would learn to like fruits, veggies and whole grains..real food!

  4. Julie Mulcahy says:

    And I’ve broken up with KFC and Burger King long ago and have never looked back!

  5. teece says:

    When it comes to making healthy choices I simply ask myself one question, what would Charley Sheen do? I think a little McDonalds is okay every now and then.

  6. R Bauman says:

    I broke up with Macaroni Grill many years ago, because he just didn’t agree with me. But, I often drive by there and think about my favorite meal – Chicken Scaloppine. So, a few weeks ago, decided to make it at home.
    After printing out the recipe, I realized why every part of me rejected it – in just the sauce alone, they use 1 lb of butter (that’s 4 sticks!) and 4 ounces of heavy cream – OMG! And that’s on top of chicken sauteed in butter and oil, and 6 ounces of pancetta (bacon).
    Obviously, I was not following this recipe, so I made it my way – using the same ingredients at much smaller scale (I only used a 1/4 of 1 stick of butter) and guess what? It still tasted great!
    Thanks for this great article. Keep them coming!

  7. Barb,RN says:

    Loved your article!! I think all restaurants, including fast food ones should list the calories and contents of all their meals. Then customers could make healthy choices ( if there are any on the menus). As for fast food places, they are OK in a rare pinch. Usually you are better off eating the containers and boxes they come in. I used to think a salad was a better choice only to find out that it contained more calories than the hamburger.
    Restaurants need to put more healthy choices on their kids’ menus too. Enough already with chicken fingers, french fries, pizza, fried fish and macaroni and cheese. It’s no wonder that kids have high cholesterol.

  8. Mike B says:

    Sherry your break up letters has given me the courage to stop living a lie. I think after you are with someone for a long time they have a tendency to start taking you for granted, and it forces you to look else ware for comfort. Burger King you don’t even make an effort anymore. The other morning I stopped by for breakfast (I was hungry and it was the only place around) I figured that and egg, ham and English muffin sandwich should be under 400 calories, but after I got back on the expressway I realized you don’t even listen to me anymore when I talk to you. My bag contained a SAUSAGE, egg, and muffin sandwich AND 4 blueberry muffin things with sugar syrup to dip them in.
    So I now confess, I have been cheating on you (and KFC) with someone who cares and appreciates me. I can not live this lie any more, we are over. I have found new love, and I don’t have time to keep seeing everyone. I have found Famous Dave’s BBQ and their 600 calorie dinners and Panera with their pick 2 (chicken soup 100 cal. And Asian sesame chicken salad 200 cal) just add the fruit cup as a side and that’s one nice lunch. Sorry it had to end this way but you should have been nicer to me over the last few years and cared about my health, we have grown apart, and I must leave you now!!!!!!!

  9. Sherry says:

    You guys are cracking me up. What would Charlie Sheen do?! Hahaha.. I’m afraid to know. He probably needs to cut back on the “white” carbs, eh? I love the Chris Hansen “To Catch A Predator” idea… I’d love to see him ambush the plastic Burger King guy! Mike B, I hate to tell you this, but I’ve been seeing Panera TOO. 2-3 times a week sometimes. They have broccoli and cheddar soup, something i would never dare order normally, but it’s only 200 calories. Giant chunks of REAL broccoli in it. I feel so much better after reading your breakup stories!


  10. Susan Bakke says:

    I never really thought of breaking up in this way..I like it..I remember many years ago when the Big Mac was the most fantastic
    meal and it tasted sooo was a fantasy that I had to come to terms with..and the break-up wasn’t so bad..When I realized what artery-clogging was really about..I

  11. Susan Bakke says:

    ended it very I make better choices and as educated consumers we should begin sending these Dear John letters to these establishments to let them know once and for all..its over…this blog was awesome..keep them coming Sherry..

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