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Don’t confuse lower-fat fries with a ‘healthier’ option

The Oct. 3 editorial “ ‘Satisfries’ are Burger King’s healthier gambit” contends that “marketing the product as a healthier substitute for its regular fries . . . may backfire for some consumers, who’ll overestimate how healthy reduced-fat fries really are.” But, in fact, Burger King ads are not claiming these fries are “healthier.”

Lower-fat versions of fast food have never been a panacea for poor eating habits; in fact, they appear to contribute to the problem. US nutrition policy since the late 1970s has promoted less fat in the diet, which in turn has encouraged the proliferation of thousands of lower-fat products. Since then, and not coincidentally, we have witnessed a massive rise in obesity across all age groups. Lower fat in fries may indeed encourage fast-food lovers to consume more of them. And since when has any combination of burgers, fries, and a soda or shake made for a healthy meal?

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The Globe suggests Burger King might “look for ways to cut fat and calories from their most popular products.” Rather, let’s encourage these chains to offer genuinely low-fat vegetables as part of combo meals, such as sides of broccoli, carrots, corn, squash, and other non-fried options. Now that would be healthier.

Hugh Joseph

Boston

The writer is an adjunct assistant professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

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