Best and Worst Nutrition News of 2009: 10 Highlights and Lowlights in Healthy Eating
President Obama, Sarah Palin among Worst Health Offenders
WASHINGTON—The year 2009 saw America reaching new nutrition lows with the release of a 4,800-calorie burger, the discovery of carcinogens in KFC’s new and “healthier” grilled chicken, and images of a president and his vice president chomping down on cholesterol-dripping cheeseburgers. But this was also the year first lady Michelle Obama sowed the seeds of healthy eating by planting the White House’s first vegetable garden in decades—a move that inspired thousands of Americans to follow suit.
Here are the highlights and lowlights of healthy eating in the year that was:
Most Unsurprisingly Unhealthy Product
The West Michigan Whitecaps of Grand Rapids, Mich., unveiled its Fifth Third Burger, which holds five one-third pound hamburger patties, chili, nacho cheese, Fritos, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream on an 8-inch sesame seed bun, packing more than 4,800 calories, nearly 300 grams of fat, 744 milligrams of cholesterol, and more than 10,000 milligrams of sodium.
Most Paradoxically Unhealthful New Product
KFC’s Kentucky Grilled Chicken aimed to be a healthier version of its signature fatty fried chicken, but turned out to harbor the chemical carcinogen PhIP.
Worst Health Quote
“If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?"—Sarah Palin
Actually, This Might Be the Worst Quote
“I love meat. I eat pork chops, thick bacon burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou. I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals—right next to the mashed potatoes.”—Sarah Palin
Worst Lunch Choice
On May 5, the president and vice president dropped in—as much as a presidential motorcade can “drop in”—at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. They ordered big, greasy, high-cholesterol cheeseburgers and soda and downed them while cameras whirred all around.
Best Square Footage in the Nation’s Capital
The White House is nice. But even better is the garden out back, planted by the first lady.
Most Literal Example of Government Pork
When swine flu made the public shy away from buying pork, the federal government decided to help pig producers by buying up $151 million worth.
Most Health-Conscious City in Europe
The city of Ghent, Belgium, announced in May that it would go meat-free every Thursday, in a move aimed to fight obesity, global warming, and cruelty to animals, and to show people that meatless food can be totally delicious.
Most Health-Conscious City in America
The Baltimore, Md., public schools announced Meatless Mondays, giving all school children in the city their weekly dose of healthy nutrition.
Most Unhealthful Marketing Campaign
McDonald’s “Avatar” Big Mac promotion, which uses a movie aimed largely at teenage boys to sell a burger that derives about half its calories from fat.
Most Overhyped Product
The Dannon yogurt company promotes Activia as a source of bifidus bacteria, designed to counteract digestive symptoms. What they don’t tell you is that bifidus bacteria are available at health food stores and online at a fraction of the cost and without the sugar and animal proteins found in yogurt.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.