Health still isn’t on the menu at fast food joints

There is nothing better than a good, greasy cheeseburger and fries. I’m not ashamed to admit I visit fast-food venues more than anyone should.

However, while patiently waiting for my turn in the drive-thru, I am aware of the conscious decision to fill my body with food that is the definition of unhealthy. All the flashy advertising signs of salads and smoothies do not deter me — I go for my pile of grease.

Fast-food giant McDonald’s has long enjoyed its consumers, who desire unhealthy — but tasty — food. Recently, fast-food joints have tried to revamp their image and offer healthier choices, like grilled chicken wraps and fruit.

Many have been fooled by these ad campaigns. An article on the MSNBC Web site said McDonald’s, which has experienced a slump in sales after being hammered for contributing to obesity, is now on the rise again after some major marketing changes.

These changes don’t run deep. They slapped a few low-cal choices on the menu and promised to — eventually — cook with oil free of artery-clogging trans fat on certain items.

McDonald’s even went to such great lengths as to invite a few moms over to convince them that they weren’t bad guys, as a part of their “Moms’ Quality Correspondents” program.

Now, obviously, these aren’t bad changes. Their efforts to improve the menu is evidence of at least a half-hearted attempt to show they care about their customers.

However, this is only a case of some serious public relations work. Good PR, but PR all the same. Adding a salad to the menu is not going to convince the “Two Big Macs a Day” guy to order a Southwest Salad and a Diet Coke. All it will do is draw in a few new, health-conscious customers.

Not all the new menu items are healthy, though they are being passed off as healthy alternatives. According to the McDonald’s Web site, a Southwest Salad with crispy chicken has 400 calories, approximately the same as a double cheeseburger. The Asian Salad has 17 grams of fat.

It’s all just pretty packaging and an attempt to reassure the customer eating at McDonald’s won’t make their jeans a little tighter.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The root of most fast-food places will always be the same old burger-and-fries items. If companies like McDonald’s honestly care about consumers and not just drawing in new ones, serious steps need to be taken to ensure long-term health.

The answer lies in making existing food healthier, not sprinkling in new, healthier food to shine things up.

In the meantime, I suppose I’ll be forced to just drown my sorrows in a Big ‘N Tasty and a Diet Coke. Perhaps the calorie-free carbonation will counteract the 460 burger calories.

Megan Molitor Kansas State Collegian Kansas State University U-Wire