by Mike Roussell, ph.D., SHAPE Diet Doctor
What's the deal with BK's new satisfries?Q: OK, what's the deal with BK's new Satisfries? Are these a healthier option than regular fries?
A: Satisfries, a new French fry from BK, are made with a batter that absorbs less of the frying oil so the finished product is slightly lower in fat. They are a better choice, but if your dietary choices are hinging on which fry at your favorite fast food restaurant is the better option, there are other more pressing issues to be corrected in your diet.
To start, "Satisfries" as a name is a little misleading, as you won't necessarily be more satisfied, especially since they are a lower-fat product and fat is a big driver in satiety. Satisfries contain 40 percent less fat than McDonald's French fries and 21 percent fewer calories than the comparable fries on the Burger King menu.
But it isn't like you are going to be standing in line at McDonald's and decide that you should go across the street to Burger King to save five grams of fat. More likely if you are in line at BK you might decide to opt for the Satisfries over the regular fries. This will save you four grams of fat and eight grams of carbohydrates. Plus those calories saved will lead to weight loss, right?
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Here's dirty secret of the weight-loss industry: Small changes don't make any sort of difference. It is a good idea, but it doesn't pan out in the real world. The "small change" concept comes from the fact that there are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat, and that if you slowly chip away at this calorie pie one low-calorie option or trip up the stairs at a time, eventually the weight loss will really start to add up. It is simple math.
Following along this line of thinking, if you ate a lot of fast food, not Morgan Spurlock a lot but four times a week (like an average American), and each time you chose a small serving of Satisfries over the a small servings of regular fries, each meal you'd save 70 calories. Assuming you ate the same thing every time after five years of doing this, you'd lose 20 pounds! Right?
Nope. The body doesn't work like that.
To see how the body really works, let's look at another common example using the "do a little, lose a lot overtime" line of thinking.
If you were to walk one extra mile each day, you'd burn 100 extra calories. If you did this every day for five years, in theory you'd lose more than 50 pounds of fat. But in reality people end up only losing about 10 pounds.
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So is the 70 calories you'd save going to make that much of a difference with your weight? Probably not. But there still is some merit here. I am a firm believer that weight-loss success is largely mental. If you are going to be lean, then you are going to need to have the discipline to consistently choose the lower-calorie options when you are eating out and on the go.
We are all at different stages in our weight-loss journey. If you eat fast food four times a week and want to change your body, that's great. It is great that you want to change. So maybe for a week or so you pick the lower-calories fries and a lower-calorie option on the menu. After a week or so (or even a couple weeks) of making the lower-calorie decisions, then you can start picking a different place to eat where the food isn't deep-fried. These would be good changes in the right direction. Choosing the lower-calorie fries is less about the calories you are saving and more about the behavior that you are embodying.
As you can see from our above weight-loss examples, one change doesn't make that much of a difference, but it is the compounding of multiple changes that leads to bigger changes all put together over time that will allow you to change your body.
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Whether you are like me and can't remember the last time you ate fast food or you eat fast food every day, saving 70 calories when ordering French fries isn't going to impact your weight very much (especially considering that you're still ordering fries), but if you can use this one change to build momentum for more changes, changes that are bigger and bigger, then go for it. We all have to start somewhere.
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by Mike Roussell, ph.D., SHAPE Diet Doctor