Supersized Nation: Bigger Burgers Still Rule

The low-carb diet is 'out' and portions are getting bigger. Can the obesity epidemic be fixed?

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

Open wide, America, for the Monster Burger. It's a near-mountain of beef, bacon, and cheese -- fully loaded with 1,420-calories and 107 grams fat. In our diet-dizzy, low-carb world, it's almost comic relief. But nutritionists are not amused.

Putting this megaburger on the fast-food market "is social irresponsibility," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. "Unless you're feeding your entire family that one burger, it's utter insanity."

This year, America turned a corner. Low carb and low fat became the dieter's Holy Grail.

Many fast-food outlets halted supersizing. Many began offering salads and fresh fruit. Kids' menus were retooled. Low-carb grilled chicken, carrots, celery, steamed broccoli, and applesauce are showing up on kids' menus -- not just the typical burgers, fried chicken fingers, and french fries.

Low-carb milk, pasta, and baked goodies popped up in grocery stores. Many products, however, had the same number of calories as the original versions. Plus, they were pricey.

Published reports now show:

  • This fall, fewer people were following low-carb diets. In December 2003, nearly 12% were following either the Atkins or South Beach diet, compared with 8% by Oct. 2004.
  • Low-carb products are gathering dust. Total low-carb sales made double- and triple-digit gains in the first half of 2004. But for the 13-week period ending Sept. 25, total low-carb product sales grew just 6%.