Well Being

New Taco Bell Dollar Menu Is Reminder That ‘Value Menus’ Are Generally Devoid Of Value

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Large fast food chains are in constant competition for the money of each other's customers, so they're always coming out with new ways to get ahead of the game, such as decreasing the already suspiciously low prices or coming out with depressingly unhealthy, gimmicky menu items. In order to compete with the terribly popular Dollar Menu at McDonald's, make-believe-Mexican chain Taco Bell has debuted its own similar list of value options: the $1 Cravings Menu. Even though it's by no means the first of its kind, the Taco Bell dollar menu has reminded me just how terrible these super-value offerings are.

Dollar menus are one of the worst aspects of fast food chains because almost nobody else can offer similar deals. Sure, if you live in a medium to large city and have food trucks located nearby, you'll find some places that offer $1 deals, but it's incredibly rare to find any restaurant that will list several items for such a cheap amount, let alone anything remotely healthy. Given the still-fragile state of our economy, millions of Americans feel that fast food is their best choice; not only is it a quick way to consume calories on the go between jobs or after work, it's also incredibly inexpensive so the dent it makes feels relatively small (though oftentimes, cooking can yield similarly cheap financial results depending on what you make and where you obtain ingredients).

But regardless of convenience, these menus are almost always wholly unhealthy. McDonald's McDouble, for example, has 850mg of sodium and 19g of fat while their popular morning $1 sausage biscuit boasts 27g of fat and 1080mg of sodium — neither of which are a remotely good way to start or finish a day. Burger King's Value Menu milkshakes range from 500 to 580 calories and have between 12g and 13g of saturated fat — that's over half of the amount you should consume per day, and the caloric number is high even for a dessert item. Wendy's Right Price Right Size Menu primarily offers things that are smaller than their usual too-large portions yet still contain very little nutritional benefits.

As of now, the new Taco Bell dollar menu has yet to hit all their franchises. They're presently testing the menus at a couple of locations and, if successful, they'll be replacing the present value menu (“Why Pay More”) with $1 Cravings. It lists nine items including three new ones: a spicy cheese roll-up, spicy chicken mini quesadilla and a beefy cheesy burrito (a smaller version of their usual one). The menu itself is split into five “universal cravings”: beefy, cheesy, spicy, crunchy and sweet.

In general, it's best to avoid fast food, but particularly dollar menus: when humans feel like they're getting an awesome deal, we tend to want more of that good thing. While an occasional small batch of fries won't harm you, it's getting it once a week or more that'll bring you down. Keep in mind that nearly none of these items have much nutritional value to your body, so in that sense, they're not really value menus at all.

Photo: Steven Depolo / Flickr