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The Nutrition-Conscious Are Taking a Bite Out of Fast Food
Date:9/17/2007

at, 67 years after the first McDonald's opened in San Bernardino, Calif., fast-food menus may be finally changing for the better.

It's been tried before, but this time the changes might stick, said David Grotto, a Chicago dietitian and national spokesman for the American Dietetic Association.

"We have seen healthier offerings now because there is a market for it," Grotto said. "If we think back to McDonald's, when they first offered the McLean burger [in 1991], that was a disaster. But there wasn't a market for it then -- people were not going to burger joints to get healthy, they just wanted a good burger."

Times and trends have changed, Grotto said. "What is happening now is that you are starting to see Paul Newman salads, apple dippers, etcetera, and they are selling because there is a market for it," he said.

That doesn't mean fast-food menus are necessarily causing Americans to eat better, however.

"The healthier options that are offered at quick-serve restaurants are for a very specific demographic," Grotto contended. "They walk into the restaurant already knowing that they are going to make a healthier choice. On the other hand, if you go into a burger joint and you have your mind set on a burger, you are not going to get the Paul Newman salad."

For similar reasons, Grotto is dubious that proposals to mandate calorie counts on fast-food menus will get people eating healthier diets. One such law proposed for New York City was shot down by a judge last week.

"I firmly believe that the consumer who goes in and wants the burger already knows that it may not be the healthiest thing in the world," Grotto said. "So beating him over the head about [calories] isn't necessarily going to change things."

Weiss agreed, adding that information on the calorie content of fast foods is already offered to consumers in other ways, such as brochures, tray liners and Web sites. And she wonders
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