Thursday, May 31, 2012

mcdonalds offers new healthy choices

we don't eat out all that often, but when we do, i can guarantee that my kids are going to want mcdonald's.  needless to say, mcdonald's is rarely, if ever, my first choice for food.

after today, my opinion may just be changing.

tate and i had the opportunity to head downtown to the ubercool rock 'n' roll mcdonald's for a special presentation about the new and improved nutrition choices that are available at mcdonald's.  i learned a lot.

mcdonald's has made great strides to offer those who are health-conscious a variety of  great options.  for a breakfast under 300 calories, choose an egg mcmuffin (300 calories), fruit 'n' yogurt parfait with granola (160 calories; 130 without granola), fruit and maple oatmeal (290 calories; 260 without brown sugar) or fruit and walnut salad (210 calories). mcdonald's is now also offering blueberry banana nut oatmeal (280 calories) that provides 2 servings of natural whole-grain oats.

for a lunch or dinner that provides 400 calories of less, choose a premium grilled chicken classic sandwich (350 calories), snack wraps with grilled chicken (250-270 calories), a cheeseburger (300 calories), 6-piece chicken nuggets (280 calories) or any of the premium salads with grilled chicken (190-290 calories).
many items on the menu can be made even more healthy by asking for items to be made to order.  for example, fries can be requested without salt for those who have a sodium restriction or concern.  any burgers or sandwiches can be made without mayo, with less mayo or without grill seasoning.  all sandwiches can also be made with a whole grain bun as well (although you should be forewarned that the bun is bigger than the regular sized hamburger patty so your kids may be wondering "where's the beef?").  salads can be eaten with little or no dressing.  you can order sandwiches without cheese or even without meat (!?).  oatmeal can be ordered plain with no additional sugar and, during this season, blueberries are offered as an a la carte option to be added to oatmeal or eaten alone instead of french fries.  i was encouraged to learn that each mcdonald's salad provides a full daily serving of vegetables (3 cups of vegetables are in each salad).
of course, as mothers, we are always concerned about the options available for our kids.  even at most sit-down restaurants, it can be hard to find healthy choices for our kids.  mcdonald's doesn't just want to offer healthy options to kids, they want to help educate children about making healthier choices.  they have made a voluntary food pledge to advertise nationally only healthier dietary choices.  i noticed that the jokes and puzzles on tate's happy meal box had a nutritional education focus (for example, fill in the blanks to find a drink that makes bones strong: m_l_).

the new happy meal automatically includes both produce (apple slices) and a smaller size of french fries (1.1 oz) along with the choices of hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken mcnuggets.  if you would rather your kids had no french fries, a second bag of apple slices can be substituted at no extra charge.  during this blueberry season, blueberries may also be substituted instead of fries or apples, at no extra charge.  in terms of sodium, mcdonald's has reduced sodium by 10 percent in chicken mcnuggets, as well as the majority of national chicken menu offerings.

my concern with the happy meal is that my kids are always still hungry when they are done.  i'm glad to see that apples are being offered along with french fries, since they have had a hard time choosing between the two.  we usually have to supplement the meal with extra food, even for two-year-old lilianna, which adds calories and fat grams, without adding much in the way of nutrition.
 we had an opportunity tour the kitchen and see that real whole eggs are used to make the egg mcmuffin sandwiches, all the buns are made at local bakeries (although all of them contain high-fructose corn syrup) and delivered 3 times a week.  real tomatoes, onions, lemons, limes, and meat are stored in rigorous conditions to ensure food safety and freshness.
if you are still concerned about making smart nutritional choices, you have a variety of avenues that offer nutrition information about menu items.  you can check the website for ingredient and allergen information.  the also offer a mobile app so you can access this information on-the-go.  you can also find the information on product packaging or on the tray liner.  you can also access a comprehensive brochure in participating restaurants or call 1.800.244.6227 toll-free for a voice-activated system to answer your questions.  you can also find dietitian-approved choices at healthy dining finder.

we still won't be choosing mcdonald's as a weekly option, but it is nice to know that, as a special treat, we have a variety of nutritious and delicious options available to us.

tate and i received lunch, an informational seminar, behind-the-counter tour, all of the above information and a goodie bag from mcdonald's as part of mcdonald's commitment to nutritional education.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

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