Home Conscious Consumerism KFC’s Double Down Reminds Us: All Calories Are Not Created Equal

KFC’s Double Down Reminds Us: All Calories Are Not Created Equal

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Y’know, I wrote about KFC’s Double Down monstrosity almost 10 months ago, when it was being tested somewhere out in the northwest. I was outraged then, but I figured it simply wouldn’t sell. Boy, was I wrong.

People are lovin’ this thing! I mean, OD’ing on it! Seems like the only ones up in arms about it are deskchair critics like myself, thumping away on our laptops and writing angrily on our blogs. I have to admit. The thing is well received. So much so, that there was a slew of articles written about how “The Double Down Is Less Calories Than The Average Salad… So Let Us Eat Our Two Pieces Of Fried Chicken With Pork And Simulated Cheese In Between In Peace!”

Anyone else hear the record skip? I did.

It’s bull.

Those of us who are calorie counting… I get it. It’s only 540 calories… it’s tempting. But think about it – if you’re really calorie counting, then you know full well what you can get for 540 calories. You know that that’s over 10 cups of broccoli. (Not that you’d actually eat that, but it leads into a larger point.)

Since I brought up broccoli, can we address the primary issue, here? You’re spending 540 calories on two pieces of fried chicken, pork, and a slice of “processed cheese food.” A primary point of calorie counting is the fact that since you are working to limit your intake of food, you make the most out of each calorie you’re ingesting. FiveThirtyEight offers up a pretty good explanation of what I mean:

Here, the Double Down’s credentials are more impressive. Those 540 calories contain 145 milligrams of cholesterol (more than twice that of the Big Mac and about half of the USDA’s daily allowance) — along with 1,380 milligrams of sodium (the USDA recommends no more than 2,400 per day) and 32 grams of fat (65 will keep you slim, says the government). So, for getting only about one-quarter of the calories that you need in a day, you’re exhausting about half your budget of “bad stuff”. [source]

So, let’s keep it real. For those 540 calories, you’re getting nothing but salt, oil, fat, a pickle and a chemical conglomeration that comes out something similar to cheese.

Thus… we come to the REAL problem I have with the food discourse, right now. Why are we comparing a sandwich made of chicken and pork… to a salad? Certainly, we’re ignoring salads with fried toppings and creamy high fructose corn syrup dressings in this conversation… but a salad with actual nutrients to offer the eater is compared to a sandwich made of sadness and skinny chickens? It doesn’t matter where your calories come from as long as the total amount of calories is relatively small? A calorie is just a calorie anyway, right?

Let me make something clear. A calorie is not, in fact, just a calorie. It absolutely does matter whether your calories are coming from sugar, fat or protein. It matters because your body does very different things with each. And there are far too many people profiting off of continuing this perception that calories are just …calories.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

“If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist.”

Know who dropped that little tidbit of nutritional science?

PepsiCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Indra Nooyi. Yep.

It’s the eternal passing of the buck. It’s not that “people are eating too much of my product.” It’s not even “people need to exercise moderation.” The message is “if you exercised, you wouldn’t be fat.” The message is also “there is no reason to stop buying my products, because the problem is only that you don’t exercise!” Understand what that means – it completely absolves the company of their share of responsibility in the obesity epidemic. It says the problem is the fact that you don’t move enough, as if that is the only explanation for why people become overweight. It simply isn’t.

The food industry is great at this – guilting the public into feeling bad about exercise (since, let’s face it – many simply do not) and using that guilt to avoid accepting some of the blame. I start to feel like a conspiracy theorist sometimes when I talk about the marketing and trickery used in their language… but at least I’m not making stuff up or pulling it out of thin air.

Because I know this is confusing to many, understanding why a calorie isn’t simply “a calorie,” I intend to spend this week talking about this very subject. So now, the next time some genius tells you “my double down is better than your salad,” you can let them know exactly what they can – and will – do with that double down.

  1. Comprehending Calories: The Basics
  2. Comprehending Calories: The Role of Carbs In Your Diet
  3. Comprehending Calories: How To Properly Read A Nutrition Label

Thoughts? Let’s hear ’em!

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Therese May 3, 2010 - 8:05 AM

Amen. The food industry is so full of crap on this one. In my experience, I have found that the quality of the food you eat is more important than the calorie count. Last week I made some small adjustments to my diet and even though most days I eat more calories than I was eating previously, the scale is finally moving in a downward direction for the first time in months!

Many people are tricked into thinking that a small donut is a better snack than a handful of trail mix simply because it has fewer calories. Who are they kidding? We need to eat actual food.

ChellBellz March 3, 2011 - 9:59 AM

I was about to say, this is bull. Who cares if it’s onlu 540 Calories, you can get a bigger and fuller meal out of 540 Calories with Meat, starch and Veggies. My thing is that I can do the Calorie counting, but at the end of the day I have to take into consideration my fat intake, and my sodium. I can eat a pack of Ramen thats 200 Calories (just a random #) but the sodium is 1500MG…doesn’t mean anything if my body is going to react badly to the salt with i have blood pressure. Let them have thier processed meat mess. They just need to stop trying to justify it…and don’t need to feed that mess to their kids.

Teri May 3, 2010 - 10:02 AM

I actually had a conversation with my brother-in-law about this sandwich and we were discussing this monstrosity of a sandwich. I was surprised at how few calories it had. But not surprised about the sodium and fat content.

Another comment I’d like to make has to do with the statement made by Pepsi’s CEO… really? If Americans exercised we wouldn’t be overweight/obese. I excercise almost everyday, treadmill, resistance training, stretching, weights… the whole 9 yards and I am still overweight. The one time I successfully lost weight is when I joined a diet program that stressed the importance of portion control. Yet Americans are always concerned about getting “more for your money” and that translates into stuffing 3 portions in a handy container that someone is going to drink down in one sitting.

I take responsibility for my weight problems, and am constantly attempting to better myself with exercise and diet modification. There are so few people with organic reasons for being overweight, so if we individually took responsibility then maybe we as a whole could do something about it.

Tina Fite May 3, 2010 - 10:22 AM

I love it!! I love it!! I love it!! You’ve said some of the same arguments I had when I debated my husband about the very same KFC product. I was telling him that one must be careful about their caloric intake; make it similar to that of a budget. He does not want me to spend money frivolously and I don’t want him to do the same with his calories. Each time he spends money on such trash that does nothing but clog up arteries and cause other issues, he is doing both.

Needless to say, I won the argument but it is still sad to see the overwhelmingly wonderful responses it is getting especially since we live in a country where everyone complains about not feeling well and being far more sickly than ever. Sometimes, it is such a travesty how the narrow-sighted can lead the blind for so long that when fully sighted people want to lead them too, they reject the help, trusting only the narrow-sighted person to lead them correctly. Open your eyes America! OPEN THEM!!

Monique May 3, 2010 - 1:31 PM

Seriously…I thought this Double Down sandwich was a marketing gimmick. Surely, people won’t BUY this thing, but it’s a way to get people talking about KFC again. This is so disheartening :-(. I’ve definitely made more than my fair share of poor food choices, but consuming this right here just lacks of sound judgment. There’s no way you can tell me that high fat, high sodium, and high cholesterol, with moderate-to-high calories is a good look. No ma’am!

ChellBellz March 3, 2011 - 10:02 AM

I didn’t think it would last either, but I have friends who actually tried this and who actually eat this often. I can’t even think about it. I think the guy from that show Doctors had the best reaction to it when he stop being healthy for 5 days. LOL…he couldn’t eat it, he even threw a temper tantrum and walked out lmbo.

Darlene May 3, 2010 - 1:52 PM

After what I saw on a food program demonstrating to kids how chicken nuggets are made, I nearly threwup. We’re feeding our kids process foods with no nutritional value. It’s no wonder, why our hospitals and doctors offices are fill with sick kids. Then the drug companies jump in and say, we have the pill for every problem. It’s time to go back to our gardens. It’s time to go back to our kitchens and cook books. It’s time to take charge of our family’s health with good basic cooking.

Lakisha February 2, 2012 - 7:35 PM

Darlene, you are sooo correct. Love your statement!
i have a two year old and her health has improved since i put her on a whole food plant based diet.

newSaga May 5, 2010 - 5:21 PM

it SOUNDS so unappealing. But yes, I’m glad you mention the nutritional analysis. Even if the calorie hit doesn’t make you grab your chest, the sodium alone will.

Stephanie May 8, 2010 - 11:47 PM

I just wanted to quickly comment on the quote you posted from Indra Nooyi.

While I agree with most of what you had said, I just thought we might take a step back before attacking the food industry. The rest of the quote is as follows:

“If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist. But because society has changed so much, I think we can also be part of the solution by transforming our portfolio.” (I got the rest of the quote from the link you posted)

The article is referring to the ways that the company is trying to make their food “healthier”. Not all food companies are even attempting that.

NOW, I’m definitely NOT saying that it’s ok to eat these things, and if they are incorporated they should be done sparingly. And I agree, that part of the difficulty is the constant slew of advertising that is thrown out by the companies.

My point is only that her quote is not totally “passing the buck”. It’s her segway into the changes the company has made to its food products to try to cut down on the sugar, salt, etc. which includes them hiring members of the World Health Organization to advise. Again, i’m still not saying that it’s ok to go drink a bunch of soda, but I think PepsiCo should be applauded for at least trying to cut down on the bad stuff in their products.

Anyway, my two cents.

Thanks for the post. I thought it was a good one, and as always I love your blog.

and I think they deserve

Erika May 9, 2010 - 9:54 AM


We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one for reasons I already stated in my post:

It’s not that “people are eating too much of my product.” It’s not even “people need to exercise moderation.” The message is “if you exercised, you wouldn’t be fat.”

I get your point, but nothing in your comment negates the fact that this underlying message exists in her entire interview, which I presume you’ve read. And that makes sense – she’s the CEO, she’s not going to talk about the harm her products cause. Alas… her segue is still an exercise in buck-passing, no pun intended, LOL.

Brenda Fisher March 3, 2011 - 12:04 PM

This was a fantastic article. I think people get hung up on one part of weight loss and justify eating crap like the Double Down because its less calories. But when you look at the bigger picture like you did in this article, it may be less calories but holy cow, look at all the other bad stuff!
I’m pre-diabetic and I watch my carbs carefully. Sometimes I find myself getting lulled into a false sense of security because the calories are low and so are the carbs. But watching the fat, cholesterol and salt is just as important. I won’t lose anything if I’m eating low carb foods with tons of fat thrown in.
Thanks for making this easy to understand, I couldn’t have said it better myself! I will be posting a link to your blog from mine.

Keep up the good work!

Golda Smith March 3, 2011 - 12:54 PM

Hi Erika,

I am new to you blog and I love it. This sandwich looks absolutely unappealing but I am not surprised that some people by into the illusion that it is a healthy food choice because of the low calorie count.


Melissa June 2, 2014 - 9:18 AM

I know right?! Like common, it must be healthy because it has no bread…. right?! Hahaha

Lilangel May 21, 2011 - 10:11 PM

I’m so glad you mentioned that not all calories are created equal. It’s just like those commercials that advertise for high fructose corn syrup: “Your body doesn’t know the difference. Sugar is sugar!” HA! No it is NOT! PEOPLE may not know (or care to know) what it is they are really eating or not eating, but our BODIES always know! You are also right about the food industry’s role in this. But the only way to change what THEY sell is to change what WE buy. If the unhealthy products they sell don’t sell, but the healthy products they sell fly off the shelves (the ones that are actually healthy, not just advertised to be so) then that’s what they will make! 🙂 AND…the only way we can do that is continuing to have conversations in our communities about making better food decisions. 🙂

Eva May 24, 2011 - 3:52 PM

Wow this thing is real?? This picture made it across the Atlantic and we thought it was an April Fool’s joke!

Anyway – currently assessing my status as an emotional eater and your blog is a godsend. Please keep this up, the way you seem to be knocking down goals is awesome and inspiring.

Eva x

icwatudid July 2, 2011 - 10:43 PM

I hate to say it, but one of my beefs with eating out is that a lot of restaurant salads (mainly ones with chicken) ARE super high in calories and sodium. The serving size for what is supposed to be an appetizer is ridiculous… a big @$% bowl of salad plus a 6 oz chicken breast, cut into strips., croutons, cheese, dressing… that’s not just an appetizer!

Still, I get your point. America (my husband included) are calorie-counting freaks.

Lisa September 19, 2011 - 11:49 PM

When I saw this “sandwich” I was horrified. I didn’t think it was possible to be more disgusted with KFC after the mashed potato bowls. How sad that I was wrong. Even sadder is that they have a successful market for garbage like this.

K Brown May 17, 2012 - 11:54 AM

I work in public health. I believe in everything you believe in for the most part. I even agree with the Double Down comments. But, the problem is not the sandwich, it’s the lips that eat the sandwich. If people won’t eat it, they won’t make it. Unhealthy food is many times medication for MANY people. When this sandwich first came out, out of curiosity I tried it and it was DELICIOUS! For breakfast this morning I had broccoli. Point: I know what I want for my life and dying early from obesity related causes is not it and everybody that is partaking in the “double downs” and every other artery clogging meal has to want the same thing for themselves. The devil is the devil. He has always been around and always will be…we must individually stand up and not blame the devil for being himself.

Ayanna M. August 8, 2013 - 1:19 PM

Even when I didn’t give much thought about what I was eating, I STILL didn’t try this heart attack with fake cheese…My tongue is burning from all the salt just LOOKING at it!

djC May 14, 2014 - 9:33 PM

You are an inspiration.

Hilary January 23, 2015 - 7:47 PM


I appreciate how you breakdown the fact that not all calories are created equal. The marketing on all of this crappy food is so ingenious no wonder folks aren’t getting the fact that this food is essentially toxic. I don’t believe that the consumer can be blamed as so much of the “real truth” is hidden. Thanks for a great explanation.

Sum Gai March 4, 2015 - 11:29 AM

Interesting post, but I seriously don’t have the SLIGHTEST clue who would actually think a doubledown is “health food”. If those people exist, maybe we need to work on EDUCATING those people, rather than going after the “big evil corporations” who only create what their customers demand…

Just my .02

Erika Nicole Kendall March 7, 2015 - 7:35 PM

People who say this kind of stuff are so backwards to me.

“maybe we need to work on EDUCATING those people, rather than going after the ‘big evil corporations'”

Sorry, Sum Dum Gai, Dim Lite Gai, or whatever your name is, but that’s not how the free market works.

Sometimes, educating the public goes hand in hand with criticizing the “big evil corporations,” regardless of whether or not they’re creating “consumer demand.” If a corporation wants to stay afloat, they have to innovate, regardless of what the public wants. They *remain* solvent by encouraging the public to buy what they’ve created, and convince them that they need it to be a part of their lives, irrespective of all of the research and data that would otherwise tell the public that the product is unhealthy, isn’t good for them, and so on. People like me step up to make sure that the information regarding the poor choices involved with this product are available to those who seek it.

And, in the 21st century, corporations are far more likely to manipulate consumer demand by trying to counter the actual facts of what is *best* for the public with shiny marketing, convincing them that *their* product should be a part of their everyday lives. It’s not about whether or not the double down is “health food.” It’s about people realizing how UNhealthy it truly is, and there’s a monumental difference between the two. Surely, you can see that, right?

So, really, keep your two cents and save it up so that you can buy a book or save up for an econ class or something. You’re still young – clearly, since you believe that just because YOU can’t fathom people “who would actually think a doubledown is health food,” they must not exist – so you’ve got time to grow out of this silliness.

Sum Gai March 9, 2015 - 11:22 AM

Wow, that was a really rude response.

You start off by making fun of my nick name, which is an ad hominem attack that has no bearing on either of our arguments. OK, my real name is Matthew Thompson, I live in Chicago, I’m a real person. Feel free to email me at the email address in the comment form, if you want to verify that.

Secondly, I don’t disagree with your argument, my comment was simply that we need to work on educating people about healthy eating instead of relying on food companies to do it. Which is exactly what your site does! Was that really so controversial as to warrant your angry response?

Finally, if you don’t want my .02, maybe you should take down your comment board. Or at least don’t approve my comment.

I know it can be hard to open up your mind to people that might have a different opinion than you. At least try not to be an a*$hole about it next time.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 9, 2015 - 12:22 PM

Yes, yes it was. It served you the exact same amount of condescension that you left in your original comment, except I actually understand economics and I don’t come at strange websites acting like I know more than the people involved. It sucks when that whole condescending thing gets turned back around on you, huh?

You CAN’T disagree with my argument. It’s FACTUAL. ROFL

And, again – I don’t have to take down my comment board OR reject your comment. I can do exactly what I’ve been doing, and that’s make my own decisions and do what I want with the content left on my space. If you don’t like that, you should probably think twice before you leave your anti-intellectual snark, defending a corporation that doesn’t give a quarter damn about you, on a website.

It’s not about opening my mind – had you said something rooted in a fundamental understanding of economics, I would’ve discussed with you in earnest. But you had the nerve to condescend AND be inaccurate. You can’t be both. Not when you’re talking to me, no.

I’m quite comfortable with who I am at that time. If that reads as “asshole” to you, and it discourages you from ever returning to my website, then I’ll consider my personality to be doing its job.

Open your mind to a book and stop worrying so much about me and what I do.

Micah April 20, 2015 - 3:51 PM

TBH, this is a lot of calories and fat for one sandwich but compared to having bun which are loaded with carbs and sugar this is a pretty good alternative and a meal. I would want more vegetables with it. I’m following a ketogenic diet and this fits the diet very well as long as the meats aren’t breaded.

Breads and Sugars are the real causes of fat build up in our society.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 20, 2015 - 4:22 PM

“this is a pretty good alternative and a meal”

I’m going to disagree, with the express purpose of pointing out that fried chicken is *always* heavily breaded, and the cheese isn’t necessarily the kind of cheese that is traditionally high fat, but more carb than fat thanks to the preserving and processing involved.

Had it not been so, I can assure you the post would’ve been written differently. ROFL

jwoolman June 23, 2016 - 5:41 PM

If exercise is the problem, maybe they should build little pedal exercise gadgets into their tables so people can counteract the effects of their food right there on the spot…. 🙂

Or offer the main filling (the patty) in a big (not small) bowl of greens and real veggies as an option, letting them choose how much dressing themselves, instead of on a bun with their condiments and fake cheese. Then see who decides to eat what.

Comments are closed.