Wednesday, July 27, 2011

McDonald's? No, no, no. McHealthy.

Boy on right shows off his healthier option.  Well done, boy on right!
Yesterday McDonald's announced a revamp of its Happy Meal menu that would cut back on the fries portion (1.1 oz instead of 2.5), offer fries AND apple slices instead of either or, offer double serving of apples to replace fries, not offer the caramel dipping sauce that now automatically comes with the apples, first offer children and parents 1% regular or chocolate milk (though soda will still be available), and the big wigs have committed to "exploring" alternatives for the apple slices; ideas include carrot sticks, broccoli, or low fat dairy items.  Sum total, McDonald's boasts reducing Happy Meal calories by 20%.  This would bring the most caloric Happy Meal choice (4 piece chicken nuggets with small fries and 1% regular milk) from 520 calories to a more reasonable 380. 

No one is arguing that this new incentive towards "better nutrition" isn't a good thing, but unfortunately McDonald's is, of course, marketing this as healthy, which it still isn't.  Fried chicken nuggets and 1.1 oz of fries is not a balanced meal, despite the fruit and the low fat dairy beverage. In McDonald's defense, the restaurant offered to eliminate French fried entirely from the Happy Meals menu, but it was the parents and children who objected. That fact poses a dilemma:  When it was critics (mostly parents) of Micky D's unhealthy kid's options who pushed for this change - mind you, McDonald's is certainly not doing this for the added business - but they either won't or are afraid to go full turkey on the least nutritious part of the Happy Meal, one kind of has to ask what the hell was the point? (Aside: I really dislike any argument where I feel compelled to defend McDonald's.)

This is a garden salad.
The 20% calorie reduction could easily be accomplished by insisting that your child get apples instead of fries, sharing the small fries with your child, or simply choosing not to eat at McDonald's except once in a blue moon and instead introducing your McDonald's going family to DIY alternatives like turkey burgers, oven-baked French fries, or - Heavens to Betsy! - a salad.  You should know what those are; McDonald's offers them.  In case you don't, I've included a picture.  One allure of McDonald's, though, is their relatively cheap prices (on average a family of four, two adults and two children, can eat for about $20).  And, despite dropping portion sizes, McDonald's does not intend on reducing their prices, which means that the many parents who often have to choose between nutrition and value can choose to buy similar meals at other fast food restaurants. 

This kid f*^$ing loves McDonald's!
As aforementioned, McDonald's really isn't gaining anything on this nationwide new deal, especially since these confused PTA pushers can't seem to decide on what it really is they want from the multi-billion dollar corporation.  Last year in San Francisco, the city passed an ordinance that barred McDonald's in the Bay area from handing out toys with Happy Meals that didn't offer certain caloric standards, 35% or less calories from fat (except from nuts, eggs, or low fat dairy), and 640 mg. or less of sodium.  The city passed this on the belief that the Happy Meal toys filled children with a sense of glee and thus a great association with Happy Meals.  This is a significant step in the right direction and an excellent cue for these wishy-washy parents to drawn from.  The truth is this: no one is more responsible for your child's health than you.  There will always be McDonald'ses out there promising happiness in every meal.  But you can choose to offer this option to your child or not.  And you can choose to stand up for healthier options, because, apparently McDonald's listens. 


  1. The only reason I ever ate at Friendly's was the clown sundae. Not because I liked them, but because they gave me nightmares and I felt compelled to end the lives of as many clown sundaes as possible, using the only weapons available to me: a spoon and my stomach acid.

  2. Most of the families I know who go to McDonalds (and I'll admit that Esme and I go there rarely) go for the convenience more than the price. IMO, it is crazy expensive for what you get. For us, we have found an alternative that can't be beat - Panera Bread. It's *almost* as fast, similarly priced, and oh my goodness so much better. Esme mostly like the soups, although sometimes she will have a deli sandwich and squeezable yogurt. I wish there were more options like Panera - fresh, tasty foods that are also reasonably priced and quick. That's exactly what a busy family on the go needs!