McDonald's Healthy? Turns Out, Not So Much

In direct contradiction of a post I made earlier this month, McDonald's is not leading the pack when it comes to offering healthy food for kids, or adults.

Mark Bittman notes in yesterday's NYT that even though every McDonald's exec he's talked to says the fast food outlet is only an occasional "treat" for his kids, why isn't the corporation taking a larger step to really make its food, well, healthier?

The company points out that it now substitutes milk, water or juice (not so good) for soda, but still, the soft drink makes up more than 50 percent of the beverages sold to kids. "And, despite a well-publicized announcement a couple of weeks ago that promised to market only water, milk and juice in its Happy Meal advertising, there’s little sign of the sugar-peddling diminishing," Bittman writes.

He adds that while it’s true that 21 percent of all Happy Meals are now sold with milk, "the vast majority of that is chocolate milk, which, according to the company’s fascinating nutrition charts (you should look), contains about 10 grams of added sugar per serving, about the same as you’d get in 20 M&Ms. This is progress?"

Bittman ridicules McDonald's September announcement, where the company announced it was turning to healthier foods, though, according to a spokeswoman, Bittman reports, that within five years, “sodas will no longer be listed on the Happy Meal menu boards in the specified 20 major markets that represent 85% of our global sales.”

And McDonald's big promise for healthier menus?  Bittman quotes the company, which says it will "“increase customers’ access to fruit and vegetables and help families and children to make informed choices in keeping with balanced lifestyles.”

Big deal.

Bittman says that doesn’t mean "you’ll be asked only whether your kid prefers milk, water or juice; it just means there won’t be pictures of soda with Happy Meals on the menu boards. . .(McDonald's will) discourage the drinking of soda (likely its most profitable item and among the least healthy items in the American diet) only when it’s forced to."

And what about that fruit? Yes, it will be offered, as will a choice of salad or a vegetable in place of fries with its Value Meals.  But, as Bittman points out, no one goes to McDonald's for a salad.  (And when you add the croutons and the bacon bits and the dressing, you're sometimes spending more calories and fat than on a Big Mac).

On a daily basis, Bittman says, "the average customer is getting about .0001 more cups of fruits and vegetables than in 2011." But repeat customers get more. "If you went to McDonald’s a hundred times a year — twice a week — you’d get almost four cups more fruit and vegetables than you did in the old days."

Bottom line? Customers don't like change.  But McD's is losing ground with its coveted set of customers, the millennials, who prefer Cosi's and Panera. As Bittman suggests, maybe truly make its meals more healthy would help.  A lot.


  1. Wow!!! This is very good news!!1 Congratulation McDonald. I am waiting for your new recipe.

    Mangosteen Juice


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