July 06, 2011

A McDonald's Review? No, Really!

1. Forget the salad. Give me CHEESEBURGER., 2. MickyD's, 3. Two Generations of McDonalds restaurant owners, 4. McDonalds Blogger Event, 5. Met Ronald #McDonald today. As seen on TV., 6. Meeting Ronald

A while back, I found out about a local blogging event that was put on by McDonalds. They wanted to invite some mom bloggers to try new healthier menu items. They wanted to get the message out - that they are listening to the public about what we want to eat - that we want healthier foods. Looks like all those Supersize movies are finally getting the official response... and honestly, I think McDonald's gets a bad rap on many fronts. I learned quite a few things about McDonald's that really impressed me during our short visit. The two year old survived hanging out with their clown mascot, too. They invited a nutrition specialist and a few local restaurant owners to the luncheon ... and quite a few good points about nutrition and people's food habits were brought up. I listed some of the take-aways below...

McDonalds Pros:

1. You can put a million healthy choices on the menu - and there are people out there that will order the cheeseburger and fries anyway. [Like me. I love the tagline for their sandwiches page on their website: "You so want one."]

2. You can put the calorie and ingredient list on every single tray liner - and there are people that will order the cheeseburger and fries anyway. [Like me.] Want to see the nutritional content of your favorite meal at McDonald's? Check out this "Bag a McMeal" interactive site!

3. If you are the cheeseburger and fries type (like me), it's OK to eat your burger... but "please don't eat something rich and then just sit around - exercise and work it off"... "back in the 1970's kids were playing outside - not playing Nintendo". Part of the reason high calorie foods aren't great now days is our lazy lifestyle. McDonald's can educate, but they can't force you to get off the couch.

4. There aren't many other burger chains that have as many healthy food alternative options for moms on the go... especially not at McDonald's prices.

5. The Egg-McMuffin actually uses REAL egg. Still. [I saw them myself in the cooler! I love Egg-McMuffins.]

6. Every 2 hours, the entire line of cheeseburger ingredients is tossed out and replaced. No old lettuce, cheese, mayo or tomato. No heat lamps, either. Not any more! Their managers do internal inspections TWICE A DAY also - every employee, every machine... in addition to the health department's inspections.

7. They don't flip burgers any more. No more chances of meat not meeting temperature requirements. [Loved the kitchen tour I got - great for a homeschool field trip idea - and was able to check out the new state of the art equipment.] You can see videos of how they make your favorite menu items if you follow the kitchen link in this paragraph! You can also see the FAQ page and ask questions of your own if they aren't answered there.

8. McDonald's kids meals have less than 600 calories - even with the fries.

9. They were the first restaurant to willingly offer their nutritional information to the public - did you know that? Yep - back in 1973. [I was in diapers back then.]

10. McDonald's restaurants are involved with the communities they are in - and the company as a whole donates nearly $44 million dollars per day (returning more than 52 cents of each dollar earned to their local economies). They also award scholarships, fund the arts, host teacher nights, and send their managers to nutrition school.

Austin McDonalds Blogger Event

The McDonald's Cons:

1. White bread. I know you guys don't want to throw away food - but honestly... white is so 1970's. Let's move it up a notch, shall we? I get my burgers without a bun if I can, but I would get the bread if it weren't "white bread in disguise". Even the wheat buns are enriched flour... and closer to white than wheat.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup and MSG. MSG is found in the sausage and egg scramble and the ranch dipping sauce. High fructose corn syrup is found in most of the dips, toppings, chocolate and syrup items - including the chocolate milk, Oreo Pieces, frappe mixes, BREADS, and of course - the carbonated drinks.

3. I look really fat in the photo above. Maternity clothes five months after the baby was born is a cryin' shame. Oh, well - I'll use this to spur me on towards more healthy menu choices the next time I dine in -- sans the cheeseburger and fries. [Salad and me need to get a little more friendly in the near future.]

BUT TO BE FAIR... I have to be honest about the corn syrup thing. As much as I hate high-fructose corn syrup - and won't buy anything processed in my own home (we get bread that has no HFCS)... my very favorite thing at McDonald's is their HOT MUSTARD SAUCE.

No, really. I dip my fries in it. I will turn around and drive BACK to get some if they don't put it in with the order. I could DRINK it. I have been known to lick the container clean once the fries are gone. [For shame.]

So... I can imagine that it would be a challenge to make a stable sauce without these overused bad ingredients that are on everyone's hit list these days. I feel for McDonald's, really, I do.

I will continue to eat organic as much as possible, buy healthy foods for my house - with the least amount of processed and packaged stuff possible.... I'll continue to read my labels and work REAL HARD at adding exercise to our weekly homeschool routine (point taken, McDonald's team!)...

... but I wanted to speak up for the record - and for McDonald's - and admit openly that we are thankful they are around - and we're glad to know that they care about our opinions, our kids' health, and our communities. The field trip they put together for us blogging moms was very educational and I was thrilled to see them reaching out and trying to get the public to see them in a positive light.

I mean come on - can you imagine a world without the Golden Arches? Here's to many more years -- and many more healthy menu choices -- from our Fry-Guy friends!

Disclaimer: I was given a free meal (for me and the kids), a fun kitchen-tour field trip, a tiny Golden Arches lapel pin, and a nifty 'green' tote at the Austin mom-blog lunch at McDonald's... but my opinion in this review is my own and was not compensated.

Note to the Skeptics: Even if you aren't the fast food type - you should really check out the smoothies on their menu. Real fruit, lowfat yogurt and ice has never tasted so good (and they sure beat the fatty frappe menu at Starbucks). My husband is a McDonald's HATER and he loves the strawberry-banana smoothie.

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Bobbie said...

It irks me so bad that there are no decent drink choices for my kids there. Our local ones do not carry lemonade anymore since they now have frozen lemonade, I don't trust their milk, and they will only sell my bottled water for my kids at a higher price. It irks me so badly that I've stopped going.

Sprittibee said...

We get the tap water with ice. It is just city water - and it can't be as bad as the water in my sink (we have serious lime deposit where we live). Lemonade isn't great anyway - it usually is the kind that has 10% juice or worse... no matter where you go. Not sure about their milk - but I think they could make a huge statement if they made sure that it was labeled as organic - or at least hormone and antibiotic free! That's what we buy at the grocery store.

Melinda said...

Thank you. I always feel like wearing a disguise when entering McDonald's so that I'm not recognized. Yet - for a big family on a really tight budget - they are the cheapest & fastest way to feed the crew on a road trip. Besides - I'm addicted to their McChicken sandwiches! :)

MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

We've been taking advantage of the 20 nuggets for 5.99. And here in Guam, they still have the Sweet Chili dipping sauce. Have they brought it back in Austin?

Speaking of smoothies. My boys love the Strawberry Banana as well as their new Pineapple Mango. YUM.

SaraMinerva said...

I can appreciate that McDs is making steps in the right direction. It irritates me to no end that I can't get apple slices with an adult meal instead of the fries without being charged out the wazoo for them. We ate there a couple of weeks ago, much to my chagrin. I didn't feel right for 3 days. When I was pregnant with M, on more than one occasion, I went before work in the morning and ordered two hashbrowns with two hot mustards (not my proudest moment). They thought I was crazy.
McDs does have good coffee though. The best coffee you can get from a fastfood joint.

Phyllis said...

I am a little tired of the food police. No, I am a lot tired. If any parent thinks it is too unhealthy for their kids, they have the choice not to eat there. Period. Leave the people who want to eat there alone. Thank you for writing a Pro-McDonald's post!

Amico Dio said...

Ok Sprit I am about to get on my soapbox here. You did a great and honest review. I appreciate that. I have serious grievances with the Golden Arches though.

I've seen many shows on TV where McDonalds has tried to justify their choices and I just get more disgusted each time I see them spend more money to do that instead of just making changes that matter. They love to say that people will buy the burger anyway (heard that one many times) so why not make the burger a bit healthier? They can. Flame broil it or use grass fed beef. Use a better quality of meat. Change the bun for goodness sake (loved that recommendation from you). Go with a healthier mayo, mustard and ketchup. It is really not that hard. The problem is that this eats into their profit margin. That is the only explanation. So instead of making a few cents less per burger they choose to spend lots on image recovery campaigns. It makes no sense. Stop the campaigns and change the burger.

Everyone loves McDonalds because of the food they serve. We all love burgers and fries BUT when I make them at home or buy them from some of the other fast food places I get a higher quality and less calories. McDs can do the same. It isn't about the burger... it is about how you make it.

And the HFCS thing. I am so done with their foolishness. Get rid of the stuff already. I hate their commercials... "HFCS is good in moderation". Oh yeah? The problem is that it is in e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g! There is no moderation. HFCS is a preservative. The longer they can keep food from spoiling then that is more money in their pocket. Just make the stuff without the HFCS and call it your good deed for the century. No matter what lies they feed us the HFCS is killing us. They have banned it in most other countries... not here. Why? Oh, the American dream. That's right. Only in America can you walk into a grocery store or food place and purchase things to eat that are more than 5 years old and that is all fine and dandy because someone is getting rich and living the American dream because of it. It is just ridiculous.

And the grams of sodium they use to preserve their food is absolutely unbelievable. The amount of preservatives in this food is what causes their fries/burgers to go years without decaying as witnessed on numerous blogs, videos and TV specials. One word McDs: "fresh". mmmkay?

I am really not some over the top real food aficionado. I love a good burger and fries so don't think I'm anti or anything. I've simply had to see many nutritionist and do lots of research because of my oldest son's condition. He has digestive problems and I've learned that it is mostly this kind of stuff that causes those problems. There isn't a nutritionist (that I've met and I've met many) alive who will say that McDs is good for you. It may be acceptable - but never good.

McDonalds - just make a few tiny changes. Just a few. I grew up with the Golden Arches and would love for my kids to experience the joy of eating somewhere fun with tasty food but I can't. You are spending all of this cash to fix your image yet all you really have to do is fix the food. That is all we want. Good, junky American food that won't kill us over time. Is that too much to ask?

Heather, I love you, girl. Thanks for letting me rant and for being honest in your review. I love when bloggers don't sell out because they got something free. You stood your ground and that makes me proud. I can't wait to see you at Relevant. :)

Amico Dio said...

And you so do not look fat!!!

Here it is 15 months after my little one was born and I am just now losing the weight.

You're beautiful, girl.

Loralee Choate said...

I love McDonalds. I am not ashamed of it. I have loved them since I was a kid and when they approached me to work with them as a brand I did not hesitate. My family visited their headquarters and I had access to a rep from EVERY step of the process from the vet in for their beef distributers to their nutritionists to marketing to the (first female) president of McDonalds USA. 4 straight days of McDonalds education.

We asked every single hardcore question there is to ask and talked about every process they go through from concept to putting the product in the mouth of the consumer.

And you know what? EVERYONE came away much, much, much more impressed.

I want to direct a comment to a quote from Amy "McDonalds - just make a few tiny changes. Just a few."

(Now I'm going to get on my soap box for a bit. ;) )

Really? Then you should be THRILLED with them then because NO fast food restaurant around has jumped through the hoops and improved as much as McDonalds.

They were the first to go greener by using cardboard containers, they were the first to make all their nutritional information available, in my area at least, they have eliminated the sale of 44 oz. sodas, they have gone to huge lengths in childrens advertising to only show kids the healthiest option for their Happy Meals (milk chug, fruit, and solid all white chicken breast nugget), they offer fruit and milk, their healthy option menu has grown by LEAPS AND BOUNDS in just the last 3 years, they offer a healthier alternative to all their menu items and you can even get their fresh fruit loaded oatmeal without sugar and cream if you want it.

And no one. NO ONE in the 'fast food' (OR 'healthy food' for that matter) arena supports families and community like McDonalds. Their Ronald McDonald House Charity is one of the finest, best run organizations out there.

You talk like these changes are also just a simple snap to pull off. Let me give you an example of the scale of McDonalds. When Chef Dan was creating the wild berry smoothie he as adamant that they use blackberries because they are quite tired of people saying they use fake food. He wanted the seeds. The Berry flavor of smoothie was estimated to be 1/3 of the total sales. And it would have taken THREE FOURTHS OF THE USA BLACKBERRY SUPPLY. For ONE ingredient in ONE smoothie that was only a fraction of total sales. For their Asian salad, they had to plant Edemame fields 2 years in advance to not wipe out the supply.

It is not that simple and you have no idea how and what they are thinking as far as what will happen in the future.

You should be comforted that they are making huge strides to become healthier. Because really, they are making more than any other fast food brand out there.

They will never be a brand that I think of as "Super Healthy" but that is not their place in the world as I see it. You absolutely CAN eat healthfully at McDonalds...if you choose to.

I admire that you are on the lookout for the health of America but I think if you could have the experience that I (And other VERY health and food conscious bloggers I attended with) had you would walk away maybe not a fan of them but you would probably feel a lot better about them as a whole.

I just feel like you are purely concentrated on the things they are not doing vs. all the MANY things they are.

Loralee Choate said...

And one more thing and then I'll shut up. :)

One thing I love about this and McDonalds is that the are one of the most open brands to conversation I've worked with. They WANTED us to ask all the tough questions and opinions like the ones voiced by Amy.

They get quite a bit of dissent online and so that they are jumping into social media and working with bloggers both tickles and impresses me.

Sheila said...

I actually usually skip 'reviews' on any blog, because that's not why I read blogs, but McDonald's was unusual enough for me to read. :) I like McDonald's. I don't eat their often, but when I do, I like the fact that I can make reasonably healthy choices and I like their Diet Coke. I almost always get a hamburger (like the little one, not the Big Mac) and the apple walnut snack with yogurt (I forget the actual name). They do have great fries, but I don't really care about fries, so I don't usually order them. Here's the place where I absolutely agree with a previous commentor: if you don't want to eat it or you don't want your kids to eat it, don't go there. That's it. You don't have to go. My kids are now past the age of toys in kids meals, but it also makes me mad how some people are trying to eliminate the toys in kid's meals. That was part of the fun of going out when my kids were smaller. We certainly didn't eat food like that every day or even every week, but wow, let me make choices for my own family.

I didn't even know that I had a soapbox on this topic before I started this comment! :)

Stefanie said...

Well said Loralee!!!

Anonymous said...

I used to love McDonald's, especially their fries.

Then one summer I felt sick after eating a burger (in their defense, I was working long hours and leaving off of peanut butter sandwiches, so my body wasn't really used to much meat anymore).

It was enough to turn me off of every fast food hamburger permanently and probably the best thing that ever could have happened to my diet (big, fat juicy burgers in restaurants do not fall under this category).

Thanks to this, my 4 year old doesn't even know what McDonalds is, other than a bathroom/play place on long road trips.

I'm happy to see they are trying to move a bit healthier (I never really thought of the scale one menu change has on production, but I think they still have a long way to go.

As do all other fast food places.

Thanks for the review.

catherine said...

I have been travelling in Germany for the past five weeks and missed the first event but am looking forward to going in July. I have taken the kids to McD's twice since we've been here in Germany-- once because they wanted to see if they could taste the difference and the second time because our German nieces wanted to go. I was very shocked when we went the first time because the milk that is served in kid's meals in Germany is organic! And I found out that they use organic beef, even though it's still no the best parts of the cow, it's still organic!

And the McCafe's here are incredible! Fresh cakes, delicious coffee... I think they have one up on the McDonald's in America!

If any local bloggers are interested in going to the event in July, please feel free to email catherine@livemom.com and will hold a spot.

Shawntele said...

Cheeseburger and fries dipped in sweet & sour sauce - yummo!!!

That's all I'm saying. :O)

Oh, they have great coffee too!

Sandra said...

Thanks for the candid McD's post. We personally avoid their burgers at all costs because we try to only consume grass-fed beef, but we haven't been able to give up their fries! My kids love them.

I love their caramel frappes, too. And they're cheaper than Starbucks!

Kristin Weber said...

I generally eat McDonalds only if I am stuck in an airport and need something cheap/fast. I always get the happy meal with chocolate milk =) Even in my twenties they make me happy! I've never tried the dipping sauces--will have to try them next time!
PS you look great in the photo!

Rhonda said...

I confess that I love their diet coke. It is seriously the best diet coke ever. Yes, I know it's bad for you, but I have not been able to give it up. And their yogurt parfait is yummy. I need to try their smoothies. They do look good.

(And can I just say that Supersize Me was a bit ridiculous? He chose the highest calorie items constantly.)



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