Dunkin’ Donuts adds both extra sugar and salt to new hot chocolate-flavored concoction

The amazing thing about the diversity of manufactured food offerings in food stores and restaurants is the degree to which the proliferation of new food products leaves everything tasting the same: half salty and half sweet.

For one thing, there’s the sauce inflation at national chains for what is called “casual dining.”  You know, Applebees, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback.  The fad now is to cook meat with one sauce, glaze or other covering and then pour both a cheese or cheese product and another sauce over the entire entree.  For example, Olive Garden has its Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo and Pizza Fritters Napoli. Applebee’s has its Fiesta Lime Chicken and Four-cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders. And check out the description of this sweet and salty delicacy from Outback: wood-fire grilled chicken breast topped with sautéed chicken with mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and cheddar and honey mustard sauce. The combinations of meats, sauces and spices always leave these dishes with both a salty and a sweet taste, sometimes with or without a slightly hot favor, depending upon whether or not it is “spicy.” There is no other taste and no subtlety of taste or aroma.

Forget about the added calories from the cheese and multiple sauces for the moment. Just think what happens when you put salt and sugar on everything—it all comes out tasting the same.  Now I know that we only taste salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (meat flavor), but with the varied smells of food, it really is possible to create a myriad of taste combination. It seems as if all American food manufacturers want to do is make us taste only salt and sugar.

The latest salt-and-sugar concoction—at least as far as I can tell with my limited TV viewing and total abstinence from processed food and national chain restaurant offerings—is Dunkin’ Donuts’ (DD) “salted caramel hot chocolate.”

Caramel is the smoky sugary flavor you get when you melt sugar at a low heat. There is always some sugar or other sweetener in all chocolate, but adding caramel pumps another jolt of sugar—or whatever sweetener DD uses—into the drink. Plus there’s the salty part: who wants to drink something salty anyhow? Salty food make you want to drink something—I’ve found water is best to quench a salted thirst. So the effect of drinking DD’s salted caramel hot chocolate drink is to make you want to drink something else. A Dunkin’ coffee anyone?

The small version of this beverage product runs 220 calories and the extra large version comes in at 550 calories, which is approximately one-quarter of what nutritional experts tell us the average adult male should eat in an entire day. While looking at the list of ingredients, keep in mind that the ingredients are always listed in order of quantity—the first item is used the most in the food product, the second item second most, etc.

Here are the ingredients in salted caramel hot chocolate: Water, Salted Caramel Flavored Hot Chocolate Powder {Sugar, Non Dairy Creamer [Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Dipotassium Phosphate, Sugar, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Silicoaluminate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor and Artificial Color (Annatto and Turmeric)], Nonfat Dry Milk, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Citrate}.

The first thing to note is that what we have is a packet of dry chemicals that DD stirs into hot water. Some of the chemicals derive from processing plants or animals; others are completely artificial, in that the starting point wasn’t a food that grows such as sugar or cocoa. Also note that cocoa is probably the fifth most used product in the dry mixture, behind non-dairy creamer, which in and of itself has seven chemical parts, including corn syrup and even more sugar.  I write “probably,” because of all the stuff in the non-dairy creamer. Note, too, that there is more non-dairy creamer than nonfat dry milk. Thank goodness there is less salt than cocoa in this brew.

Drinking one, or even five, of this beverage comprised of sugar, chemicals and salt won’t count towards the daily dark chocolate dose that keeps away heart disease. In fact, a DD salted caramel is one of the unhealthiest things you can put in your body.  Drinking one defiles the body much as dumping radioactive wastes defiles a wooded area or wetlands.

Don’t think that the sauces, glazes, cheese products and drizzles at national casual dining chains are any different. Dig deep into the ingredients of most of these concoctions and you’ll find a lot of chemicals, a lot of corn syrup and sugar and a lot of artificial flavors.

Of course, with all the potential carcinogens and all those unneeded empty calories come that simultaneous hit of both sugar and salt which the food manufacturing industry has trained us to crave.


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