Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: BURGER KING
Burger King is introducing Gratifries, a reduced fat French fry with only 6g of fat per 70g serving

If fast food restaurants — or “quick-service restaurants,” as the industry likes to neatly address itself — delivered as much as they promise in their advertisements, perhaps the negative connotations often associated with their menu items would be alleviated. If every Big Mac passed as gourmet; if every slice of pizza yielded endless ropes of mozzarella binding itself to the rest of the pie; if every french fry tasted as pure as its ancestral, farm-fresh potato seemed in the commercials... Perhaps fast food would carry a bit more dignity in its name if it only lived up to the self-perpetuated hype, if it just delivered on the quality promised.

Quality, however, is but one criterion in the consumer's ever-sharpening choosiness; as expected with the health and fitness culture currently flooding all products, all that is “healthy” has become synonymous with all that is “quality,” and one is not the other unless it is both. In often feeble attempts, popular fast food chains thus spew out “healthy alternatives” to their regular menu items. Sure, the calorie numbers may be a few digits lower, but is that extravagantly accessorized salad really healthier? Does less fat equal more health?

Burger King, one of North America's leading quick-service chains, thinks so. In fact, they're so proud of their new “Gratifries” that they're giving them away. From October 11 to November 1, each Friday between noon and 2 p.m., customers will be able to sample the new menu item, free of charge. Initially incepted in the U.S. under a slightly different “Satisfries” moniker, the updated side was clearly introduced to address the increasingly disastrous obesity epidemic plaguing North America. According to their website, the crinkle-cut fry contains 40 per cent less fat than “the leading quickservice restaurant french fry” yet remains “100 per cent delicious.”

But how does it measure up to Burger King's own regular fries? According to the nutritional values provided on the website, a medium- sized serving of Gratifries weighs in at 260 calories, 90 calories lighter than its regular, straight cut brother. Its fat content also drops from 17g (3.5g of saturated fat) in the regular fries to 10g (1g of saturated fat) in crinkle cut form. The most drastic change is the sodium level, going from a skyscraper- high 790mg to a more bearable 280mg.

Despite the marketable number games and fun portmanteaus (“gratifying fries,” for those still wondering,) one may still wonder whether or not Burger King's new menu item is quality, simply because it is a “healthier alternative.” Constantly brought to attention is the problem of impoverished communities who depend on the food of these quick-service restaurants; many simply don't have the budget to shop organic and to “eat right.” Are Burger King's Gratifries a step in the right direction, or are they just a tokenistic marketing scheme, resolving nothing more than the guilty consciences of constant fast-food diners?

Ultimately, the decision is up to the customer. Which option will fill one's stomach with the least amount of nutritional backlash? For some, the answer is the latest, specially battered, oil-resistant french fry. For others, fast food in general just doesn't cut it. Are healthier variants of essential “junk food” the answer to questions of poverty and obesity? Will throwing a “healthy” french fry into the tired mix of greasy sides benefit anything more than the menu's diversity? This Friday, you can decide for yourself at a participating Burger King location near you.