What's the Deal with Taco Bell's Drive-Thru Diet?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

A decade ago, Jared Fogle lost 245 pounds eating two Subway sandwiches a day and the Subway diet was born. Today, Subway has capitalized on his publicized success by focusing their marketing and menu on healthier eating alternatives for those dining away from home.

A decade later, Christine has lost 54 pounds with the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet. Is this fast food diet your key to success?

I am sure Taco Bell is hoping their new marketing focus leads to the next fast food diet success. Previously in our ongoing Food on the Run series, we highlighted some of the healthier alternatives available at Taco Bell. Four of the items we highlighted came from the Fresco menu because they fit within our goal to recommend single entrée items around 250 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving or less. Those four previously highlighted menu items still hold as the best items to select from the Fresco Drive-Thru Diet menu. Care is also necessary when selecting from the menu since the other three alternatives provide over 340 calories per serving as well as more than 1000 mg of sodium even though they are less than 10 grams of fat.

I think one of the best parts of the Drive-Thru Diet marketing campaign is the frescolution to help people pledge and make a commitment to maintain a healthier lifestyle. We could not agree more that the ultimate keys to success include leading a more active lifestyle while making sensible food choices and require a commitment. We even wrote a book called The Spark that includes a Healthy Lifestyle Pledge to help people do just that.

Whether you are following the Subway diet like Jared, the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet like Christine, or the Spark diet like Brandy, the basics of success are the same.

  • Commitment to Change - Significant and lifelong change begins with a personal choice and commitment. The key to that statement is the word personal and reflects what you yourself have decided and not what a friend, co-worker or doctor has decided for you. If you are going to go in a different direction in your life regardless of where you want to go, you have to make the decision to do so. When you do, long term and successful change can begin.
  • Regulated Portion Control - Jared used sandwiches and Christine used a soft taco but both found success because they used regulated portion control to help them master meal portion limits. It is important to remember that a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat while a serving is the amount of food recommended to meet nutrition and health needs. Although typical portion sizes have increased over the years, recommended serving sizes have not which has caused many of us to have intakes that are out of balance. Finding a system or technique that helps you manage your portion sizes to more closely match recommended serving sizes is key to your success just like it was for Jared and Christine.
  • Recognize It Will Take Both Effort and Time - Both Jared and Christine's weight loss took time, they didn't happen in thirty days or less. We live in an instant society where people expect to see quick results for little effort. Unfortunately, most people did not get into a situation where they needed to make a weight loss change in thirty days although it may have taken little effort. My favorite reminder for the journey of weight loss change is the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare is highly confident and bragging about what he is going to do, and how he is going to do it better and faster than everyone else does and challenges others to compete with him. The tortoise takes him up on the challenge and the hare is sure there is no way he can lose. As the race takes place, the tortoise understands the task and knows it will take from sun up to sun down but happily sets off on a slow and steady course to achieve his goal. As the day goes on, the tortoise remains undistracted by what the hare is doing and continues with his goal in sight, focused on the task with each deliberate step that he takes. In the end, the hare that was nothing but over confident, and distracted, fell short of his goal while the tortoise proved what he always knew to be true… slow and steady wins the race. The bottom line is this, if December 31, 2010 is the finish line to accomplish your goal, recognize that you have the time and you can reach a realistic goal if you are willing to put in the effort and finish the race by sticking to a slow and steady pace.
So, is the Taco Bell Drive-Thru diet a potential key to your success? For some, it just may be, especially if your lifestyle includes eating out at fast food restaurants several times a week. Instead of mindlessly ordering and having no idea what you are eating, selecting a certain pre-determined meal from Taco Bell, Subway, or McDonald's each time you eat out might be the first step of change you need. If you have made the commitment to change and need a regulated portion control system to help you take the first few steps on your journey, the plans that led to success for Jared and Christine just might be the best way to get started. Recognize is will take both effort and time to move beyond those first steps but just as with the Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady will allow you to win the race!

What fast food tips and tricks have worked for you and might be helpful for others new to the healthy eating lifestyle process?

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Eat from theirs at your own risk! Report
I like the Fresco menu, and my boyfriend LOVES Taco Bell, so it helps us get dinner in a hurry and still be somewhat kind to my diet. Report
Well, it's just another choice, we don't even live in a town that has Taco Bell or McDonalds or Subway, lol lol. People always complained that the fast food places don't have healthy choices, so, if you go to Taco Bell, now you do.......if you "really" want to that is. Perhaps it's easier to go there and eat what you want, and then complain that "they" made you overeat?? That excuse has worked for a long time already. Report
When I was traveling last year, I found myself eating at several fast food places. Mind you, I really don't eat fast food anymore. However, there are better choices to be had. I usually just had a plain burger or the occasional cheeseburger and a small fries. As long as you watch your portions, you'll be fine. Report
While Taco Bell is working to make their menu healthier, they have not found a better way to store their "seasoned ground beef" it is still in a container that holds all the fat! One thing they should do is give the customers the option of having 100% Whole Wheat Tortillas. I would be tickled to see that. Report
Being on the run all the time with my 4 kids, I appreciate the option of having something reasonably healthy to select while in the drive thru. Absolutely Taco Bell (or any restaurant food) should not make up the majority of your food consumption - but finally a real alternative for the kids and me when on the run. Report
It seems Taco Bell is trying to hop on the Subway healthy eating train. Really, these make a good fast-food choice, but neither supply all the nutrients for healthy nutrition. Report
My feeling about these marketing campaigns, which is what they are, is that they give alternatives for OCCASIONAL fast-food meals. The Taco Bell diet, like the Subway diet, does not provide enough whole grains, vegetables or fruits to make a truly nutritious daily food plan. Report
Hmmm.... I don't know about that. I would not recommend it all. The point is to lose weight with a lifestyle change you can maintain for life. What happens when you come off of the subway diet or taco diet? You don't know how to maintian the weightloss eating regular food and you can't live the rest of your life eating 2 subway sandwiches a day or 2 taco wraps a day. Report
Eating variety in your diet is important. That may be an okay choice for 1-2 times weekly but not for a regular food choice Report
I really don't eat taco bell anymore, but am familiar with the campaign. What I find interesting about the commercials is that they make it seem like this individual lost all this weight just by eating taco bell. I believe this makes people fell less accountable and they can eat Taco Bell all the time and it's ok. But you will notice at the bottom of the screen in teeny-tiny print, it says she only at the Taco Bell occasionally and paired it with healthy diet and exercise. These options are great if you're in a situation where you need to grab fast food; however, everyone needs to realize it is not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. Report
I read this article and a day later I went to a concert 60 miles from home. It was a Sunday and there were few places open to eat lunch at that time. We went in to a food court in a Mall. I of course was looking for a salad. My friend told me that Taco Bell was doing this showing carbs on their menu. I had never eaten at Taco Bell before so I went for a Chicken Ranch Sald. After the concert on our return home I went to the website and discovered I had eaten a whopping 900 calories for lunch. What a disappointment. I did not think it through I assumed a chicken salad would be good. The cheese rice and dressing was just way too much. I will not make this mistake again. Moving on and did learn a lesson. Report
But are you learning to eat for a lifetime? Report
healthy fast food - beautiful! Report
I love to eat a fresco baja beef gordita and a fresco hard shelled taco. That filled me up and was part of my success when I lost the 45 pounds. Now I try to stick to this when the temptation is to not get the baja sauce and cheese. Then we had the food scare and I quit for awhile. I looked the calories up on Calorie King and it was 250 for the gordita and 170 for the hard shelled taco. Perhaps too much salt for some, but I love it! Report
If I were still the Taco Bell junkie that started out on a healthy kick back in 06 I would be SO EXCITED about this and it's potential. But the truth is if I'm "going out" for a meal now I'm going to get something I can savor a little more than the T.Bell. I think it's great that they're offering more healthy options, for people who do rely on them for meals, but the only time I ever eat taco bell anymore is after a long night of drinking, and even that isn't very often.
My biggest problem with this "diet" is that a soft taco is certainly not enough to fill me up for a meal. I would rather eat a BIG homemade veggie burrito or even BIG pile of brussels sprouts than try to make it through the day on one dinky little taco. Report
Portion control, write down what you eat, and try to work out at least 150 minutes a week Report
Although I don't eat at Taco Bell often I do like some of thier choices. I always trade bean instead of meat fillings and no cheese. My main change is when I have like a fast food hamburger is to order extra lettuce and when I eat it I remove half the bun and toss it away. I hate waste but if I ever have fries with that I only have 1/2 fries per bite and toss the rest. Sometimes I just want that taste. Report
I will try SOME items! Report
It is a ridiculous campain by Taco Bell! Report
I like having healthy options at the drive-through when I'm stuck without a meal but I can't imagine building an entire diet around it. I honestly enjoy whole foods more than processed. And cooking is part of the slow-eating ritual for me. I tend to enjoy savor things I cook myself more than some junk I got through the window of my car.

But we each have to find what works for us and if fast food + exercise works for you, then go with it. Report
Anytime you can cut calories from a food item, that is a plus. The "diet" part of this is that the cheese and dressings are taken out. I have always liked my Taco Bell "fresco-style" but it is up to you to verify that the "fresco style" you ordered is what you get when you receive the order. Given this is "fast food," I have found the young folks working don't have time to make the substitutions. They figure the consumer won't know. Report
Even if fast food is not a regular part of your routine, having some acceptable fast food options that you are safe can be a lifesaver on those days when you are out of the house with friends or your routine is busted for some reason. Report
I think it's great that you don't pretend that people who are dieting aren't eating fast food. They are. For most, it's part of real life. It's nice to have an option when you need something fast and easy! Report
The Fresco menu is really great if you need to eat fast food! Report
I never really cared for fast food sure it tastes GOOD but after i was done i felt filled with grease and junk and bad about myself.Now i know there are healthy choices out there one of my faves is Subway!!! but i heard recently that the calories given by SOME fast food places were inaccurate so we have to be careful about what is really going into the food we eat!!GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!! Report
I completely agree about the portion control. I know for me I was SHOCKED to find out how many carbs I was eating on a daily basis! Report
I think one of the reasons this works for SOME people is that it may be one of the first ways they can start to think about controlling portions and making healthier choices. A few years ago when I started WW I was able to know that I could go to Subway, Taco Bell, Baja Fresh, etc. and get something that was quick and more healthy than what I might have chosen before. (Of course it is important to know ahead of time what the nutrional values are, Baja Fresh for example has a couple of WW friendly items, everything else is way over the top, the same is true for any resturant, knowledge is power!) If someone is currently eating several times a week at a fast food chain, isn't it better that they have some healthier options? Of course fresh food and home cooked meals are the ideal, but I didn't get to be obese because I was eating the ideal foods. If it helps, great. If it becomes a trigger, skip it or try another FF chain. Report
I only very rarely go to Taco Bell - can't see eating everyday though. But anything works as long as you mind your calories and nutrition I suppose. I still can't help seeing it as a fad diet though. Didn't Jared start gaining back some of his weight too? Just wondering....thought I had heard that somewhere. Report
what? really? Report
Taco Bell...ick! Report
Anything will work if youstay within your calorie limit. Report
If you are going to do fast food I think the Taco Bell Fresco items are a better choice than so many others out there. Report
I have to admit I did get excited when the fresco menu finally got to Huntsville, AL and although I usually pack my lunch for work, its nice to know that I can go through the Taco Bell drive thru and get something that fits in decently with my eating plan. Report
I found the Fresco Concept with Weight Watchers a while back but who would want to have a taco without cheese? It just doesn't taste the same! I try to make healthier tacos at home with low fat cheese. Report
I am happy that fast food resturants are commiting to healthier choices,but the danger is that they still have unhealthy choices,and they will let you know about them..."You want fries with that?" so the key is still you! I don't like fast food but I travel for work and sometimes it is all I can get on the road, so..my motto is get a kids meal,it is the normal "adult" size they had 30 years ago. also now instead of fries they have healthier sides, like apples,oranges etc. Report
Fast food does not satisfy me at all, I just feel like I haven't eaten anything. I will just go home and eat again. I try to carry some food with me for "an emergency" to tide me over until I can get a real meal. Report
I discovered these tacos a couple years ago. They are good and a favorite of mine, and I don't miss the cheese. I think it has more flavor than the regular taco The calorie and fat content aren't too bad, for one. But, who can fill up one taco? I haven't checked lately, but there are no other healthy sides to add the taco to make it a filling meal without adding up calories an fat. Report
I read an article yesterday in the paper about how calorie counts and other nutritional information can be wrong for pre packaged foods and fast food menu items. The person making your meal at the fast food restaurant can put more of an ingredient in your meal (more mayo then what is the suggested amount) which can make your calories sky rocket. I think it's best to stick with making your own it's cheaper and you control how much stuff goes in your meal. Report
I just watched the informercial for the Drive Thru Diet. I think it's great that they're are bring attention and creating healthy alternatives. However, the woman featured cut her calories down to 1250/daily. From personal experience and everything I read this doesn't seem like it's healthy in the long run.

I also found it interesting that all of "people on street" were paid actors.

It just seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors. Report
I do not like to eat fast food because I don't want to spend the money, but I am glad there are healthy choices when I do have to grab a quick meal. I have been making healthy choices way before I joined so it is pretty easy for me to pick out healthy choices on any menu. Report
I stay away from fast food. If on the road will do subway or something in that line. Report
The fresco menu appeared about the same time I gave up eating dairy and joined Spark People. What a nice coincidence. I enjoy it because I can still grab a quick meal with my husband when he wants to go to Taco Bell which is his favorite fast food spot. I don't have to feel like I need to eat things I don't want to eat. There is now a good choice... and I finally started losing the weight! Yippee! Report
I am not a fast food eater. Report
I believe that eating at fast food places is as bad as eating meat for farmers fatten cows, pigs, and etc. with weird stuff. That is why I am a vegetarian. Report
I am very careful when I eat fast food. WW published a book about 8 or 9 years ago with all the fast food restaurants and the WW point value for each item. I used it for years. Now I rarely eat fast food because my kids are grown. Report
I believe can better my chances of losing my weight and maintaining the weight loss by cooking more at home and eating less take-out. I usually tend to eat too much when I eat out and the food can be seasoned more appropriately when I cook my own meals. Report
First, I have to confess that I ate 10 oreo cookies in one sitting 2 days ago, and I'm fully aware that totals 500 calories. Why did I do it? Well I like them (very chocolatey), but I also forgot to pack a lunch for work, and didn't want to order pizza. It's my danger zone. When I first started SP I took a SP quiz and found out that one of my problems was eating on the run, waiting until I was too hungry and then making bad choices. So one of my short term goals was banning fast food for 6 months. I have to admit that one of my fave places is Taco Bell, so I'm actually happy that they are at least making an effort to jump on the nutrition bandwagon. Oreo Cookie binges are a real rarity for me. But I do think that when I stick with my other goals -- 3 fruits, 3 vegs, 10 cups water daily -- I could probably find room in my 1550 calorie diet for a yummy taco bell thing once in a while. Report
It is a great reminder that slow and steady is what it takes to finish the race! Report
I have eaten from the Fresco menu in the past, before the recent ad campaign, and the biggest issue I have is the lack of consistency from one Taco Bell to another. I have seen as much variation as double the size from one place to another, so if it looks like its not enough it is probably the right amount.

-Ralph Report
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