Lisa Tilinger Johansen, a former McDonald’s Corporation real-estate-executive-turned-Registered-Dietician, is out to balance the bad rap that the fast food restaurants have received from books like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me with bite-sized portions of common sense advice about nutrition, food and eating choices.
FAST FOOD VINDICATION puts forth the arguments that McDonald’s, like other fast food restaurants, are here to stay, so it’s not about avoiding them so much as it is about making peace with them as people make the right lifestyle choices; after all its not the food restaurants, with McDonalds as the key example, that makes people fat; but rather the choices that people that make them fat.
Tillinger Johansen also argues that the McDonald’s company is a prime example of true American enterprise that has grown from meager beginnings to become a company that brings jobs and charitable contributions to its local communities. Through comparisons of different menu items at various fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendys; sit down restaurants such as Cheese Cake Factory and TGI Fridays and other meals and explanations of basic diet formulas and advice on lifestyle change, Tillinger Johansen explains how eating at fast food restaurants can be a healthy and integral choice in a balanced life.
The argument for moderation in lifestyle choices, though not new, is clear and convincing. Tillinger Johansen provides extensive examples and data to support her theories and advice. For the most part, these are all easy to digest, however some of the comparisons seem quite skewered. For example, the author states: “It’s clear, then, that just like the many other accusations against the fast food corporations, rising obesity rates can’t be entirely blamed on the industry. Home-cooked meals, just like sit-down restaurant offerings, are often loaded with calories and fat.”
To vindicate fast food caloric values, the author compares them with examples of meals served at sit-down restaurants that are well known for their comfort food, or a frozen entrée from El Pollo Loco Fast food Mexican chain highlights unhealthy recipes by celebrity chef Paula Deen who is known for her Southern Comfort food, rather than chefs like Jamie Oliver or Rocco DiSpirito, who are known for their healthy choices.
Besides choosing some thin examples to support the book’s premise, the author’s use of the first person takes on a moral and preachy tone at times, for example when passing judgment on a PETA protest, rather than allowing the reader to judge the incident for themselves. There are also several redundancies in the text in which the author restates information and her cause in several chapters, rather than allowing points to be highlighted by the examples.
FAST FOOD VINDICATION does not really showcase that fast food is healthy, but rather that it is not too unhealthy compared to other restaurant chains. It also provides an enlightening history about the development of fast food restaurants and improvements in nutritional information disclosure as well as common sense advice about healthy living.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader