Pleasure: Turkey tacos and tostadas
Where to Get It: Del Taco, locations Valleywide
Price: $1.29 for the tacos, $1.89 for the tostada (at least where I got them)
What It Really Costs: Oh, Del Taco, you sneaky bastards, you.
Let's face facts, friends. By now, you've likely blown most (if not all) of your New Year's resolutions. Hell, by this point you may not even remember said resolutions.
A perennially popular resolution is to eat healthier. For what seems like easy money, precious few places offer something healthy-ish in hopes that consumers will build a habit to visit their establishment long after any New Year's resolve has waned.
One that's trying it out this year is Del Taco, the perennial underdog to Taco Bell in cheap Gringo-Mex fast food category. Their brilliant idea is to offer tacos and tostadas topped with ground turkey in place of the standard ground beef. Their advertising proudly proclaims that there's all the flavor of the beef, but 33 percent less fat.
I tried the beef and turkey tacos side by side and can tell you that they are both equally bland. They weren't bad per se, but they were almost noteworthy for how little flavor they delivered. When the two-for-99-cents tacos from Jack in the Box are vastly preferable, good grief. Del Taco has clearly set the bar low for themselves and has no problem casually stepping over it. No risk, but certainly no reward, either for Del Taco or its diners.
While mulling over a mouthful of this pabulum, I noticed something odd. The advertising proclaimed 33 percent less fat; an asterisk leading to fine print clarified that the turkey meat has 33 percent less fat than the beef. What I noticed was that there was no mention of any other improvements.
I paid a quick visit to Del Taco's website for nutrition numbers. I was quite surprised by what I found. The regular taco is a modest 130 calories, with 70 calories from fat. The turkey taco is 150 calories, 70 from fat. It's the same story with the tostadas. The standard tostada is 330 calories, with 130 from fat. The turkey tostada is 390 calories, 150 of them from fat.
That's right, folks. The allegedly healthier option has more fat and calories than the standard one.
UPDATE 1/23/2014: I heard direct from Del Taco that the correct side-by-side comparison is to the Double Beef Classic Taco, not the Regular Taco. Indeed, the Turkey Taco has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat to the Classic's 200 calories and 12 grams of fat. You'd think they would advertise that it's 25 percent fewer calories than the Double Beef Classic. However, I find it odd that there's less protein in the Turkey Taco than there is in the beef taco when turkey is the more protein-dense meat. Still, the tostada has more fat and calories than the regular beef one.
All I can say is what the hell, Del? I appreciate the effort to offer a healthier product, but this is exactly the wrong way to do it. Since less fat means less flavor (and less sales), they added more meat, overcompensated, and made it even worse than the original.
Talk about a habit that's easy to break.
This post has been edited from its original version.