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    Archive for the ‘McDonald’s’ Category

    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    McDonald’s Rings In 2012 with Farmwashing

    Remember last year’s Washington state-based “from here” campaign, which added a “locavore” twist to McDonald’s highly processed offerings?

    Well, the fast food giant will take farmwashing to a national scale starting next month with a truly groan-worthy advertising campaign (here is one of the upcoming ads).

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    3 Reasons Why the New Happy Meal is Still Problematic

    McDonald’s announcement yesterday morning regarding upcoming menu reformulations and a Happy Meal makeover had my public health and nutrition colleagues buzzing, analyzing, and tweeting.

    The gist?

    “The new Happy Meal will automatically include both produce (apple slices, a quarter cup or half serving) and a new smaller size French fries (1.1 ounces) along with the choice of a Hamburger, Cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets, and choice of beverage, including new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low fat white milk. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apple slices will be available, upon request.”

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    Guest Post: Why Is McDonald’s Listed As a Resource For Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

    RonaldI am not a fan of any sort of “awareness” month as I find the concept trivializes important health issues. Are we only supposed to care about heart disease, diabetes, etc, during that one month of the year? And I rarely see anything of substance come from the month-long activities, just the usual ineffective educational campaigns, instead of meaningful public policy reforms. Plus many issues tend to crowd themselves into certain months, so it all becomes background noise. September is one such month. Among other causes (e.g., “cholesterol education“), September has been proclaimed “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month” by Congress and President Obama.

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    McAttack!

    mcdonalds(2)

    Moms to Moms is a 14-page supplement from the publishers of Parents Magazine that offers everything from clutter-busting tips to healthy meal ideas to general childrearing advice.

    The issue I saw today in a dentist’s office certainly caught my attention for a variety of reasons.

    First: the McDonald’s logo on the lower-left corner of the cover.

    Second: among the fourteen pages, there are no less than five full-page advertisements for McDonald’s — six if you count one full-page advertisement for the Ronald McDonald charity.

    Three of these advertisements bear the title “Mommyisms”, and show a fictional mother and daughter (and, in one case, a father and son duo) being playful or enjoying an activity together.

    The first advertisement contains the following statement:

    “Just because it’s her favorite place to eat doesn’t mean it can’t be yours too.”

    Advertisement number two features photographs of chicken nuggets, apple slices with caramel dip, and a soft-serve ice cream cone.  The accompanying text:

    “Tell my husband and son we’re going to McDonald’s, and suddenly I have two kids instead of one.  Its like a fun switch gets flipped and they immediately go into play mode.  I can’t really blame them.”

    The final “mommyism” shows a mother and daughter doing yoga together.

    “What’s not to love?  A Fruit & Walnut Salad plus a Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap for me, and a wholesome Happy Meal for her.  Because quality time is even better with quality food.  And when it comes to eating right, she always follows my lead.”

    The text is accentuated with hearts dotting every lowercase “i”.  All together now: “Awwwww”!

    The remaining two advertisements are even more interesting.

    One features McDonald’s Registered Dietitian, who recommends two different daily menus, one made for children and one tailored to adults.

    For instance, a 505-calorie breakfast composed of one hotcake, one syrup packet, 1% lowfat white milk, Apple Dippers, and low-fat caramel sauce is recommended for children.  There is, of course, no mention of the amount of sodium or added sugars also contained in that meal.

    Finally, there is a spotlight on the Director of Culinary Innovation for McDonald’s corporation.

    One of his featured recipes?  Vanilla-scented pineapple.  Nothing wrong with that, except for the two cups of sugar (32 tablespoons!) and half cup (8 more tablespoons) of vanilla syrup that goes into, strangely enough, sweetening fresh pineapple!

    There is no serving information for the recipe, but even if it is meant for a dozen people, that’s a whopping 3 tablespoons of added sugar (as much as a can of soda) per person!

    PS: I will try to scan each of these advertisements later this week for you to read.

    In the meantime: thoughts?

    I don’t disagree with the notion that certain McDonald’s menu items are healthier than others, but I am greatly disturbed by a magazine supplement aimed at parents that solely advertises the golden arches.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    McCafe latte2Before a customer adds a single sugar crystal to it, a McDonald’s large non-fat vanilla latte contains 9.25 teaspoons of added sugar just from the vanilla syrup.

    For comparison’s sake, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains ten teaspoons of added sugar.

    Keep in mind, too, that a standard sugar packet contains a teaspoon of the sweet stuff (meaning this latte already comes sweetened with 9.25 packets of sugar).

    In this particular case, the vanilla syrup tacks on an additional 148 calories to this coffee.

    Ordering a regular McDonald’s large latte and sweetening it with two whole packets of sugar saves you 116 calories!

    Remember — our palates are extremely susceptible to training.  On average, it takes anywhere from 21 to 25 days to get used to new flavors or reduced amounts of sugar and salt in one’s diet.

    I can tell you from personal experience that my tastebuds are saturated by foods I once perceived as “not very sweet.”

    Ten years ago, I was a Starbucks caramel frapuccino fiend.  If you’re keeping score at home, that’s caramel syrup + whipped cream + ribbons of caramel drizzle on top.

    I have since become much more aware of my sugar intake, to the point where my tastebuds no longer enjoy extreme sweetness.

    I was recently at a Starbucks where one of the baristas walked around with a tray full of sample-size caramel frapuccinos.  I decided to try one, for old time’s sake.  After one sip, I was done.  I could not believe how cloyingly sweet it was!

    While there is no reason to completely cut out added sugar from your diet overnight (or at all, really), everyone can benefit from reducing their intake.

    I recommend keeping track of the amount of added sugar in your diet (the naturally occurring sugars in a glass of milk or a handful of raisins is irrelevant) over the course of three days.

    If, on average, your intake is between 28 and 32 grams, you are in good shape (FYI — the average adult in the United States consumes 90 grams.)

    Otherwise, aim to get as close to that figure as possible.

    If your average intake is closer to 90 grams, make it a goal to lower that figure by ten grams each week until you get to your desired mark.

    For the record: in 2002 I kept track of my added sugar intake for three days (for a class project) and I averaged 104 grams a day!  So, believe me, I’ve been there.

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    Numbers Game: Who Needs A Sugar Packet?

    mc-donalds-latte-230Before a customer adds a single sugar crystal to it, a McDonald’s large non-fat vanilla latte contains ______ teaspoons of added sugar just from the vanilla syrup.

    a) 6.5
    b) 8
    c) 9.25
    d) 11.5

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer.

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    More McTales From Afar

    20061213mcdonaldsI recently blogged about the caloric differences between McDonald’s menu items in the United States and England.

    Small Bites reader Quinn Andrus, who resides in Qatar, recently visited a local McDonald’s with a trusty scale — and sent me the results.

    Among them — Qatar’s Big Mac clocks in at 200 grams (7.14 ounces, compared to the USA’s 7.5 ounce concoction), while the largest beverage order comes in a 825 milliliter (27 ounce) cup.

    This means that a large soda at a McDonald’s in Qatar is roughly 16% smaller (and contains 50 fewer calories) than one in the United States.

    While we’re talking numbers, consider this interesting tidbit that pertains to the 50 states:

    • McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish: 380 calories; 640 milligrams of sodium
    • Burger King’s Big Fish Sandwich: 650 calories; 1,480 milligrams of sodium

    While neither is a “healthy choice” (and both are processed to death), it is quite startling to see the nutritional differences in two seemingly similar offerings.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    In the United States, a McDonald’s Big Mac and order of large fries adds up to 1,040 calories. In the United Kingdom, those same two items add up to 950 calories.

    You would think all McDonald’s items would be standardized, no matter what corner of the world you were ordering them in.

    Not so.

    Why the caloric difference? Simple — a container of large fries is slightly smaller, as are the beef patties.

    Mind you, McDonald’s USA only recently lowered the calories in their large fries from 550 to 500. Two years ago, this combo would have added up to 1,090 on this side of the Atlantic.

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    Numbers Game: McCounting

    In the United States, a McDonald’s Big Mac and order of large fries adds up to 1,040 calories. In the United Kingdom, those same two items add up to __________ calories.

    a) 1,125
    b) 950
    c) 800
    d) 1,040

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    When comparing an Au Bon Pain double chocolate chunk muffin with a large order of McDonald’s french fries, the muffin provides 70 MORE calories (570 calories vs. the large fries’ 500 calories).

    That’s not all, folks.

    This muffin also provides double the saturated fat of those large fries — and 100 MORE milligrams of sodium!

    Oh, and then there are those 11 teaspoons of added sugar.

    These gigantic muffins truly irritate me because they suck away all the enjoyment from savoring a chocolatey baked good.

    Why can’t these simply be half the size (and calories)? A 285 calorie muffin sounds more reasonable — and easier to justify as an occasional treat.

    And anyone who says “just don’t eat the whole thing!” needs to go up to their bedroom and read Brian Wansink’s amazing book, Mindless Eating.

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    Numbers Game: Compare and Contrast

    When comparing An Au Bon Pain double chocolate chunk muffin with a large order of McDonald’s french fries, the muffin provides _____ ______ calories.

    a) 70 MORE
    b) 50 FEWER

    c) THE SAME AMOUNT OF

    d) 120 MORE

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.

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    Things That Make You Go… "Oh No, They Didn’t!"

    Food advertising is always…. interesting.

    That’s not to say it can’t also be horrifying and disturbing.

    Consider, for instance, this McDonald’s advertisement that was prominently featured in Austrian billboard a few years ago.

    Yes, this was a real advertisement!

    Once your eyebrows return to their original position, feel free to post your thoughts.

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    In The News: Are You Calorie Blind?

    This New York Times article — centered around a French marketing expert and American attitudes towards food and nutrition — makes the following case: health claims like “trans fat free” and “low fat” create a “health halo,” providing consumers with a false sense of security, and ultimately making them more susceptible to overeating.

    When random Americans in a nutritionally conscious Brooklyn neighborhood were asked to estimate the number of calories in an Applebee’s meal, they overshot by an average of 100 calories.

    Good news so far.

    However, when that meal included two crackers labeled “trans fat free,” those additional 100 calories went seemingly unnoticed!

    Furthermore, the total caloric count of that meal received lower estimates than that of the cracker-less photograph.

    Meanwhile, “[foreign tourists in Times Square] correctly estimated that the meal with crackers had more calories than the meal without crackers.”

    Sounds simple (more food = more calories), but this French professor of marketing contends that health halos can blind us from seeing the larger picture.

    The theory is that foreigners, most of whom stem from countries where nutrition and weight loss mainly concerns calories (rather than specific nutrients), are not deceived by what Marion Nestle calls “calorie distractors.”

    What is a calorie distractor, you ask?

    Any kind of claim that makes you forget the total caloric impact of what you are eating (i.e.: tortilla chips containing a mere sprinkle of flaxseed and soy protein, or Gummi candies with as much ALA Omega-3 as four walnuts.)

    The article also mentions a most fascinating experiment conducted by this French researcher and Brian Wansink last year.

    “After giving people a chance to order either a Big Mac or a 12-inch Italian sandwich from Subway, the people ordering the subway sandwich [which has more caloric than a Big Mac] were more likely to add a large nondiet soda and cookies to the order, end[ing] up with meals averaging 56 percent more calories than the meals ordered from McDonald’s.”

    This article cements a lot of the concepts commonly discussed in this blog. Let’s recap:

    1. Forget about “good” and “bad” foods. Instead, focus on the big picture. A donut and coffee breakfast is not worth fretting about if it only happens once a week.

    2. Above all, think calories. Whole wheat pasta covered in 500-calorie Alfredo sauce is not a healthier choice than that same amount of “white” pasta accompanied by 100 calories of marinara sauce.

    3. Don’t be fooled by claims of “a day’s worth of vitamins” or “x milligrams of Omega 3” on boxes of high-calorie, sugar and sodium laden junk foods. You might as well down a Centrum pill in between bites of a King Size Snickers bar.

    Remember — the less processed your diet, the less you have to worry about scavenging the supermarket aisles for sugar-free, vitamin fortified, and low sugar Frankenfoods.

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    In The News: Lean Times, Leaner Burger

    Starting Monday, the double cheeseburger will disappear from McDonald’s dollar menu.

    It’s not that customers don’t love it — it’s actually the chain’s best-selling $1 item!

    In its place? The same burger with just one slice of cheese, a different name, and a slightly heftier price tag.

    The McDouble — the end result of McDonald’s strategy to increase profits after the cost of commodities like wheat skyrocketed over the past year — is set to debut in 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants on December 1.

    Retailing for $1.19, this new version offers 50 fewer calories (390) and 25 percent less saturated fat (8.5 grams, or roughly 42% of the recommended daily limit) than its predecessor.

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