Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA

Jack in the box fast food

Jack in the Box: A true foodie’s paradise?

Sprawling across 21 states with over 2,200 outlets in the USA (and one surprising little haven in the Micronesian region of Guam), Jack in the Box has truly established itself as a “munchies paradise”.

This vastly expanding and flourishing chain has indeed been a pioneer in the domain of fast food and serving to the bizarre and sometimes grotesquely unhealthy millennial taste buds.

At one hand its devout lovers call it “vile but amazing”, on the other hand, people publically compare its tacos to a “wet envelope of cat food”.

Jack in the Box has truly garnered both fame and notoriety since its humble beginnings in 1951 in San Diego.

Twitter wars, controversial ad campaigns, sinfully unhealthy food choices, and a celebrity-favored meal brand – Jack in the Box has it all.

But what are the true reasons for its magnanimous success?

How is this brand able to sell over a whopping 554 million tacos annually?

And is this bacon and butter slathered culture of food that solely gratifies impulsive food cravings, a wise choice for a major and influential food chain?

Let us find out.

But before that, a sneak peek into the underpinnings of how this magnificent chain operates and what is the claim to fame to its famous “Declaration of delicious”.

Jack in the Box: the brand, the menu, and the million free hamburgers

Like the thousands of iconic brands such as Apple and HP that originated in California, Jack in the Box too started out in the West Coast, in the early 50s, by a Californian businessman Robert O. Peterson.

Within 2 decades it was able to capture a substantial proportion of the eastern and Midwestern markets by opening a 1000 new outlets spread across the country.

Jack in the box unhealthyA brief glance at the Jack in the Box menu will immediately direct your focus towards to succulent and decadent items such as the “Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger” (stuff that a carnivore’s dreams are made up of), “Spicy Sriracha” (a burger not meant for the meek-hearted), “Chicken – N-Tater Melt Munchie Meal” (the divine trinity of chicken, potatoes, and cheese), and many more.

And this is just the burger side of the menu.

A prime reason why Jack in the Box has always been a hot choice among millions of food-crazy Americans despite the presence of other major food chain giants such as McDonald’s or Burger King is that it provides a wide array of food choices that extend beyond the traditional “burger-fries-soda” combo.

(Fun fact: It has been serving the classic “All Day Breakfast” menu since they started the game-changing breakfast sandwich in the year 1969)

So once you stop drooling over the very enticing burger section of the Jack in the Box menu and move on to the other pages, you will witness an impeccable and unique spread of dishes, rivaled by a meager proportion of fast food joints.

Egg rolls, chicken fajitas, teriyaki bowls, salads, pancakes, burritos, fruit smoothies, croissants, and sandwiches – you name it, they have it.

It has been a front-runner in the realm of innovative menu items too.

Starting from breakfast sandwiches to portable salads, Jack in the Box has always tried to keep its customers up and excited about new and inventive ways of eating there all time favorite foods.

The 70s era saw the Jack in the Box coming up with inimitable dishes such as the “Moby Jack” (a very special sandwich for the pescatarians) and the classic “Frings” (the utterly insane fusion of onion rings and French fries!)

Sadly enough, they are not a part of the menu anymore.

Coming to the present day, the 2016 Super Bowl commercial segment where Jack in the Box unraveled one of its most bold and influential marketing campaigns.

Wearing attire similar to one of the country’s Founding Fathers, the Jack in the Box’s mascot claimed to give away a million free hamburgers!

The company’s claim of giving away free hamburgers coupons (in selected areas) to literally ANYONE who registered on their website was a highly innovative way to promote its now-favorite member – the “Double Jack” or “Jumbo Jack”, along with Habanero Ultimate Cheeseburger.

As this lucrative offer drove millions of burger addicts to a state of frenzy, it went ahead to prove one very important fact – Americans love fast food and Americans love Jack in the Box.

Jack in the Box: Who is Jack truly feeding and what?

Jack in the box fast foodA basic glance at the tweets about Jack in the Box will reveal two very important aspects of how this food giant is viewed by the American crowd:

  • One section of junk-food hoggers is profoundly in love with it’s greasy, salty, and meaty, (and at times soggy) preparations.
  • The other has a hostile attitude towards what Jack in the Box sells in the name of tasty and delectable food.

In a nutshell, people either love it or love to hate it.

Let us go deeper into understanding why would there be reasons to detest this archetypal name in the big leagues of food chains.

A superficial look at the numbers will reveal that Jack in the Box is indeed a much-favored brand in the USA. However, a closer look at the demography that has massive admiration for Jack in the Box further reveals a completely different story.

If there were two words to describe midnight Jack in the Box taco hunters, they would be “inebriated” and “doped”.

In other words, drunk and high people love gorging on the cheap and meaty treats presented by the thousands of Jack in the Box outlets pan- America.

Why is that an issue?

A survey indicates that 17% of Jack in the Box’s footfalls occur between the late night hours of 10 pm and 4 am. And that, most of the customers seeking the pleasure of such drool-worthy treats such as the Sirloin Cheeseburger with Bacon at the dead of the night are either high on alcohol or drugs.

It seems like this particular demography is the one segment that skyrockets the sales. No wonder, many commercials of Jack in the Box feature such inebriated and/or euphoric crowd.

And Jack in the Box has been in the receiving end of much heat and controversy spurred on by this very fact.

The second reason being the very core element that launched Jack in the Box into the arena of multi-dollar enterprises – the decadence of its food.

With more than 1800 calories per serving that includes a monstrous 97 grams of pure fat (both saturated and trans), 213 grams of carbs, and, here is the worst part – 3,660 mg of sodium (that’s salt) – A Cheeseburger Munchie Meal is one of the many dangerously unhealthy meals that Jack in the Box serves.

Coming down the beverage section, which might look healthy, at least comparatively healthier featuring many fruit smoothies such as that of mango, bananas, and strawberry, it actually houses some of the most calorie-ridden drinks options.

For instance, take the Large Golden Oreo Salted Caramel Shake.

A single serving of this overly tempting beverage is nothing but 41 grams of saturated fats, 2 grams of transfats, and 180 grams of pure carbs swirled in a salty and creamy whirlpool that is nothing but a lethal mixture containing 1022 mg of sodium.

And yes, the total calorie count is 1345!

Real bacon butter and other drugs…

Jack in the box bacon cheeseburgerSometime last year when Jack in the Box CMO, Iwona Alter, spoke about the latest innovation in the line of butter-slathered burgers ( a Jack in the Box specialty), a Triple Bacon Buttery Jack,  her exact words were,  We think our loyal guests, as well as new customers, will love the burger’s decadent flavors and standout ingredients.”

Well, the “standout ingredients” are nothing but bacon and bacon butter.

Let us take a closer look at the nutritional content of this heavenly sounding burger.

1 serving of a Triple Bacon Buttery Jack (that also, not so surprisingly, houses grilled onions and generous layers of cheddar) contains:

  • Total calories: 902
  • Fats: 59 grams
  • Saturated Fats: 25 grams
  • Cholesterol: 143 mg
  • Sodium: 1380 mg
  • Carbs: 50 grams
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Proteins: 42 grams

Similarly, a glimpse into the nutritional data of its seemingly endless list of fatty and greasy treats reveals a not-so-surprising-yet-dangerously-unsettling- truth.

Jack in the Box dishes are nothing but chronic lifestyle diseases served to you on a platter (or a take-away box)!

More or less, every item on the Jack in the Box menu is built on the foundations of copious amounts of salt, cholesterol, fats, carbs, and sugar.

How does each of these ingredients affect your body?

What do major healthcare organizations have to say about these ingredients and additives?

And why should you be wary of frequenting such joints?

Let’s have a look.

The real dangers of a Jack in the Box meal

  • High sodium levels

According to AHA, American Heart Association, our daily sodium intake shouldn’t exceed 2300 mg per day.

However, if you look at the sodium content of the Stacked Grill Cheeseburger Munchie Meal (a glorious combination of 2 tacos, curly fries, a cheeseburger decked with another level of a cheese sandwich, and a side of a soda drink), it is a whopping 3,660 mg!

Imagine a single serving of this meal, apparently meant for a single person, contains more sodium than your body can process in a single day.

Consuming abnormally high levels of sodium has a seriously detrimental effect on your body.

For starters, it significantly increases your chances of developing heart diseases and even stroke!

Among the elderly, it can reduce cognitive abilities. It is also one of the biggest reasons behind water retention or edema (associated with kidney dysfunction).

Once your taste buds are accustomed to a certain level of high salt intake, you start craving more and more salt to compensate for the built up tolerance.

High blood pressure and high sodium levels can degrade your kidneys, the most vital organ responsible for flushing out the toxins from the body.

Fact: High blood pressure is one of the biggest killers of our generation. It is also one of the most preventable. However, with unhealthy amounts of salt doused in food, one does expose himself/herself to the dangers of cardiac arrest and brain stroke!

  • Saturated and trans fats

Saturated fats originate from animal-based products such as red meat and dairy. Trans fats are created when fat molecules undergo a process known as partial hydrogenation.

A presence of both these ingredients poses a great threat to the health.

Both of these increase your cholesterol levels, and not the good ones.  A high consumption of saturated and trans fat is linked with high LDL cholesterol level. The kind of cholesterol that clogs your arteries and puts excessive pressure on your heart and ultimately leads to a cardiac arrest.

These elements also interfere with your body’s insulin resistance and increase your risk of diabetes.

International dietary guidelines insist that saturate fats intake shouldn’t be higher than 10% of total calories intake in one day.

And as for trans fats, they should be avoided completely.

This comes down to 16 grams of saturated fats and 0 grams of trans fats per day.

Now scroll above and see how much of these are there in the Triple Bacon Buttery Jack?

A whopping 25 grams in one serving!

A closer look at the saturated fat content of burgers and the shakes and desserts list will tell how with every Jack in the Box meal you move closer and closer to a stressed heart, ready to give up anytime.

Fact:  Cardiovascular diseases are the #1 cause of death in the world. Every year, these are responsible for over 17 million deaths. Diabetes and high blood sugar collectively kill more than 3.8 million people annually. Both CVDs and diabetes kill around 20 million people every year! 

  •  Sugar

Jack in the box obesityThis cleverly disguised ingredient which has found its way into every kitchen and pantry across the globe is a highly toxic element.

Sugar is yet another potentially lethal element of most of Jack in the Box’s menu items.

And not just the dessert and shakes menu.

A significant proportion of the menu can be considered as a source of abnormally high sugar levels.

A Chocolate Oreo Shake topped with whipped cream contains 128 grams of sugar while a Mango Smoothie (conveniently placed under “healthy dining” option) is 57 grams sugar per serving.

Interestingly, the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, another proud member of the apparent health dining foods, is at least 36 grams sugar.

The world asks, why is America is growing fatter and sicker?

The answer is because on an average an American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar daily!

What is the daily recommended limit?

6 to 9 teaspoons. (25-37 grams)

Which makes the USA a country inadvertently accustomed to consuming 3 to 4 times more sugar than what is specified by leading dietary organizations.

The result?

A high escalation in obesity levels.

A bodily condition that is nothing but an invitation to diseases which have been categorized as top killers of human beings across the globe.

Linked to innumerable health conditions – starting with diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, lower immunity, liver diseases, kidney dysfunctions, mood disorders, behavioral problems, and even cancer, the sugar epidemic in the USA can alone be held responsible for a weaker heart and a flabbier gut.

Fact: Over 70% of men and 65% of women in the USA are either obese or overweight. Collectively, there are 650 million obese people worldwide.  Out of which, a shocking 41 million are school -going children! 

  • High Carbs

If anybody tells you carbs are good for you, please believe them.

But do understand that just like cholesterol; carbs too have the “good” and the “bad” categories.

Carbs those are full of healthy dietary fibers such as in the case of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and beans have loads of health benefits.

However, carbs that have been stripped off their natural goodness owing to refining processes that increase their shelf-life, are the “bad” kind of carbs.

This includes the aforementioned sugar, every kind of added sugar, and refined carbs.

Doctors and health experts suggest that we should be consuming 25- 38 grams of dietary fiber per day. That’s 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Overall, the healthy range of carb consumption (including the dietary fibers) is 225-325 grams per day.

While the carb content of several items placed in the healthy dining section exceeds 100-120 carbs/ serving, their respective dietary fiber content is in the single digits.

And in the maximum of the dishes, it is zero.

Even the Chiquita Apple Bites with Caramel is shockingly just 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

Fact: “Bad” carbs such as refined carbs and sugar cause blood sugar spikes that are directly related to weight gain and diabetic tendencies. The “good” carbs which mainly consist of dietary fibers are extremely beneficial in keeping your digestive tract healthy and reducing the risk of several chronic illnesses.

  •   Red meat

Jack in the box cancerDeemed as one of the most controversy-fuelling foods in the world, red meat is still a number one favorite among a majority of Americans.

It is impossible to imagine a fast food joint in the heartland of red-meat fanatics which doesn’t serve a wide array of succulent dishes replete with every form of processed meat known to mankind.

Catering to such a fundamental gastronomic demand of the typical American crowd, Jack in the Box has made sure to include bacon, sirloin, steak, sausages, and many more in their delectable menu.

The only problem is that not only is red meat rich in the “bad cholesterol”, but also the processing of the same infuses in it several carcinogens.

Yes, you heard it right!

Every bite that you take out of the juicy cheeseburger or the Double Jack comes with a mouthful of nitrites that expose you to increased risk of cancer and cardiac issues.

Not to mention the copious amounts of saturated fats that come as a freebie with the meat products.

Also, the way the meat is cooked – char-grilled or deep-fried methods of preparation further make it unfit for frequent consumption.

Fact: The WHO – World Health Organization categorizes processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens. This means that there is a strong link between these and the onset of cancer. Several studies indicate that a consumption of mere 100 grams of red meat on a daily basis increases your risk of bowel cancer by 17%!

In a nutshell…

In contrast to the latest trend in most food labels going all healthy, organic, and vegan-friendly, Jack in the Box’s mantra seems to be fixated on serving Americans grease smeared meat and calorie-ridden sides.

It has become synonymous with unhealthy indulgence, where the ideas of caution and moderation have been thrown into the wind.

On the surface, one might argue that once in a blue moon indulgence into such treats is not going to be a big deal.

However, if you look at the overall dietary and lifestyle patterns followed by a majority of Americans, this conjecture fails to apply.

Increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco, bludgeoning stress, dangerously sedentary lifestyle, and a deep-seated culture of consuming processed and junk – all of these depict the life of an average American.

And to add to this, frequenting places such as Jack in the Box, a name that doesn’t resonate with healthy eating and moderate portions, spells colossal danger to health, for both kids and adults.

So next time you think of visiting your favorite fast food joint that serves buttery meats and bacony goodness at affordable prices – just remember that the French name for Jack in the Box is  “diable en boite” which literally translates to “devil in a box”.




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