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Dunkin’ Donuts: The Curious Case of the Executive Chef and ‘Productive Calories’

1296003983712Yes, I know.  I often pick on Dunkin’ Donuts.  I’ve alluded to the fact that if “America runs on Dunkin’”, then it’s probably gasping for air after twenty seconds.  I’ve repeatedly pointed out some of the chain’s horrific nutrition figures (i.e: their large mocha contains as much added sugar as nine Oreo cookies).  And, yes, I’ve “WTF”-ed at some of their ingredient choices (their cheese danish contains over 60 ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, two artificial dyes, and partially hydrogenated oils).

And, well, their new YouTube channel — which showcases their DDSmart “healthier-for-you” choices (read my harsh critique of said choices here) — just adds to that bowl of fun soup.

The channel currently features three different videos, all helmed by Dunkin Donuts’ Executive Chef, Stan Frankenthaler.  Though he does make a reference to the company’s “nutrition advisory board”, none of its members appear in these videos.  Consider me not-at-all surprised.

The videos are slightly disorienting at first; the foods laid out on the table behind which Mr. Frankenthaler stands are right out of an Olive Garden commercial — fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, fresh herbs.  This, mind you, from the same company that makes a blueberry bagel that contains more “naturally flavored blueberry bits” (made from sugar, dried cranberries, blueberry juice from concentrate, grape juice concentrate, and sunflower oil) than actual dried blueberries.  The filling in their strawberry cheese danish?  It contains strawberries, alright, along with corn syrup, modified cornstarch, two artificial dyes, sodium benzoate, and artificial as well as natural flavors.

I kept looking out for some of the chain’s more common ingredients — corn syrup, sodium stearoyl lactate, Yellow #5 — but, alas, they were nowhere to be found.

In one of the videos, Chef Frankenthaler mention a term that was new to me — “productive calories”.  You see, a Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook fan had a burning question: why is the company’s multigrain bagel considered a “DD Smart choice” when it contains more calories than some of the other bagel varieties?  Here is the chef’s verbatim response:

“Those calories are what’s thought of as ‘productive calories, so we’re all moving towards more whole grain, more multigrain, more whole wheat.  Those ingredients come with great protein counts, but these higher calories, these productive calories… 14 grams of protein in our multi-grain bagel.”

Let’s break that down:

1) The term Dunkin’ Donuts is attempting to use here is “nutrient-dense” calories.  For instance, 100 calories of almonds are more nutrient dense than 100 calories of pretzels because the almond calories offer a larger amount — and wider variety — of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

In this case, though, the term doesn’t quite fit.  Sure, the additional fat grams in the multigrain bagel can be attributed to the inclusion of heart-healthy sunflower seeds and flax, but let’s not forget that the multigrain bagel has the highest amount of added sugar out of all the varieties..

2) If Dunkin’ Donuts were truly moving towards more whole grain and whole wheat products, why does the multigrain bagel contain more white flour than whole wheat flour?  And while the inclusion of flax, sunflower seeds, and millet might seem lovely, keep in mind that the multigrain bagel contains more high fructose corn syrup than it does any of those ingredients.

3) The fact that their multigrain bagel provides 14 grams of protein is more a testament to the size of the bagel than to the inclusion of whole wheat flour.  After all, the absent-of-whole-grains “everything bagel” clocks in at 13 grams.  A plain bagel?  11 grams.

I also can’t get too excited about a bagel that contains 14 grams of protein when it also contains almost 2 teaspoons of added sugar and as much sodium as 5 McDonald’s chicken McNuggets.

Notice, by the way, that there is a completely unfinished thought in that quote.  “But these higher calories, these productive calories….”

Yes?  What about them?  I’d personally finish that statement with “…. are a BS term Dunkin’ Donuts made up to dupe you into think a 390-calorie bagel with 560 milligrams of sodium is a legitimately healthful choice.”

One last oddity: that same video also lists ham as a “great swap” for a breakfast sandwich because it is a lean protein.  Ah, what would fast food companies do without nutrient cherry-picking?  I guess the ham’s status as a lean protein somehow provides immunity from its high sodium content and the fact that it’s cured with sodium nitrite?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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One Comment

  1. cameo said on January 28th, 2011

    Thank you for so succinctly putting to words, my exact same feelings on all the jargon out there “Productive Calories” = hilarious.

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