>> Thursday, January 27, 2011
CAN McDonald's be healthy? That's the thought that's running around my mind. Naturally, as you might guess, I'm probably biased against the restauarant and you might be able to guess how this article will turn out. But stick around; I'll try to be creative and come up with ways they possibly could. If I can. For the sake of healthiness, it certainly WOULD be great if there was a fast food restaurant out there that you could actually trust was serving you healthy food.
So how did I get to this question? I was looking at some page on Facebook where I found one user suggesting to another that using www.healthydiningfinder.com would be a good way of finding healthy alternatives when dining out. Naturally, I went there and performed a search on restaurants local to me. However while I was expecting to hopefully find organic co-ops that I perhaps hadn't come across before, I was disappointed by the search results when it retunred a restaurant listing showing choices such as Famous Dave's (1st), Panera Bread, Chili's, and - you guessed it - McDonald's. Believe me, the list goes on and on. The only difference between this and a Google search of local restaurants was that HealthyDiningFinder gives you the count of "healthy" items to be found on that restaurant's menu.
Curious what could be on the healthy menu at McDonald's? So was I. In a nutshell, you're looking at oatmeal, yogurt, yogurt smoothies, Egg McMuffins, some salads (WITHOUT dressing), a Happy Meal, some chicken sandwiches and wraps, some bags of fruit with or without carmel dip, and a fruit plate. So... McDonald's is ALMOST somewhat healthy.
What? A fruit plate isn't healthy? Let's look into some of these, starting with the oatmeal. It is made of: Oatmeal [Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.], Diced Apples [Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color)], Cranberry Raisin Blend [Dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative)], and Light Cream [Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan].
Whole grain rolled oats are healthier than a Big Mac, but they are not necessarily healthy in and of themselves. Oats need to be soaked, not cooked, otherwise they are pulling nutrients from your body instead of adding to it. We can agree that the sugars are bad. Modified food starch? Not necessary, but it's probably there as a thickening agent and personally, I'll pass. Salt, "natural flavor," barley malt extract, and caramel color? Not healthy choices.
Let's pretend for a moment that McDonald's was a healthy restaurant choice. If it was, and you were served "diced apples" in such a restaurant, the chef would take an apple, and dice it. Unfortunately, that's not the case. McDonald's gets its foods delivered already completely prepped and the "chef" in question simply opens a bag and throws the pieces together. Thus, the unnecessary calcium ascorbate on the apples. Really, McDonald's employees can't CHOP APPLES? I'd say that's just insulting, but I've seen videos on YouTube about some fast food restaurant employees, and, well... maybe they can't! It's a lose-lose situation.
Skipping lightly over the cranberry raisin blend, which is mostly healthy except that the cranberries and raisins most likely aren't organic, and the sunflower oil and sulfur dioxide are less-than or NOT healthy choices of additives, consider the dairy that McDonald's uses. Their "light cream" HAS INGREDIENTS. Cream requires no ingredients; it IS an ingredient. On top of that, it is pasteurized and homogenized, making it a highly-processed food and therefore one not welcome in the body.
What else is there? It's worth pointing out that Egg McMuffins and Happy Meals (consisting of a hamburger, "Apple Dippers" with low-fat caramel dip, and low-fat white milk) absolutely DO NOT belong in a list that even hints at being healthy. That's a mistake on the part of HealthyDiningFinder. Either their definition of "healthy" needs correction, or they get some kind of kickback for placing THOSE on the list.
Finally, let's take a peek at that fruit plate. There are many other things that could be considered on the list - like the salads, but frankly all you need to think about for those is the fact that nearly ALL restaurants - especially fast food restaurants - add sugar and preservatives to the foods they're serving you. Back to that fruit plate.
It's made of apples, grapes, vanilla low-fat yogurt, and candied walnuts. If you're savvy, you already see that each of those actually contains a lot of sugar. Okay, okay - apples and grapes are typically healthy and I do not recommend you leave off eating them, but McDonald's fruit is, again, most likely not organic, and of course they have that unnecessary calcium ascorbate. SO - you can eat better fruit outside of McDonald's. The yogurt? Again with the McDonald's dairy - don't forget any of the previously-mentioned problems with that. But it's also bringing with it extra sugar, fructose, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors. Sounding a little less healthy all the time, hm? Finally: candied walnuts - yeah, that's healthy. Walnuts with preservatives, sugar, more sugar, junk, junk, annnnnnd artificial flavor. Way to go, McDonald's.
I can't go through any more of McDonald's food items. It's like they don't even try to be healthy. Wait, no - it's like they TRY to not be healthy while hiding it. The worst aspect of all of this is for HealthyDiningFinder to list them as having healthy options so that customers may feel good about themselves while going to McDonald's, because with great likelihood temptation will kick in and they will find themselves with Meal #6, double-sized.
But COULD a massive, corporate chain create fast food that is also, actually healthy? I believe it is. Could it be profitable? My guess on this is that it could make a profit - but nowhere near one as great as McDonald's does now, with production-line junk food. They could stock kitchens with real ingredients, like organic steel-cut oats soaked overnight in raw yogurt, with organic fruits and nuts added... or farm-fresh eggs and organic meats. They could do all that, because their kitchen can be just like any other kitchen. But they don't...
...but they won't.