Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Loving It? McDonald’s Seeks to Improve Nutrition Image

MdDonald's Restaurant, Rest Stop, France, 2011

Seemed like everywhere we went this summer in France, Krakow, and Prague we saw McDonald’s fast food restaurants and signage.  While in France I read that McDonald's corporate earnings were up for the second quarter of 2011 in the US and in Europe by 5%.  Not a surprise.  

Reminds me of other rates that are going up.  Overweight and obesity have doubled globally in the last 30 years to nearly 1.5 billion people.  And where there are larger numbers of fast food restaurants (in the US) people are heavier.

Interest in promoting good nutrition has finally reached a tipping point, enough so that McDonald’s has jumped on the bandwagon.  Is the commitment genuine? 

In July, I received an email from Today’s Dietitian addressed to nutrition professionals and dietitians.  The email message was from McDonald's and described its “commitments” to “improved nutrition choices.”  

What improvements has McDonald's planned?  They've promised to:

  • Include produce every happy meal with a resulting 20% fewer calories in the most popular happy meals and promote nutrition awareness in all national kids communications by 2012;

  • Reduce sugars, saturated fat and calories by 2020 and reduce sodium by 15% in national menu items by 2015; and

  • Increase access to nutrition information for customers and employees.

McDonald's Restaurant, France, 2011
Is this change for real?  I’ve been mulling this question over for awhile. I keep coming back to a Mark Bittman article about McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal offering published in a February NYT blog.  What Mark found out about McDonald's oatmeal recipe wasn't pretty.  

With 11 ingredients, this recipe is oatmeal turned into industrial food.  Bittman discovered that the McDonald’s oatmeal contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and about the same number of calories as an Egg McMuffin.

Fast Fact:  “The strongest association between fast food consumption and obesity is when one or more fast food meals are consumed per week.” (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010).

Tips:  Save time: make oatmeal at home.  Reconsider how often you eat at fast food restaurants.  Go less often if you eat in one regularly.  Look beyond the surface. What you learn may startle you. Look online or ask for nutrition information to help you find healthier choices if you decide to eat at a fast food restaurant.  

What have you learned lately about offerings in fast food and chain restaurants that surprised you?

Yours in joy and health!


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