By Elyssa Schwartz
Breaking news in greasy eating: Throughout the country, McDonald’s menus will begin to display a calorie count. Um, Earth to Mickey D’s… it’s about time. Nutrition facts and calorie counts have been trending throughout the restaurant industry for quite some time now, and big names like Starbucks have been on this for years.
According to our pals over at Huff Post, the world’s biggest hamburger chain said Wednesday that it will post calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus nationwide starting Monday. This summer, a health care bill passed by the Supreme Court will require all restaurants with more than 20 locations to post calorie counts on their menus. However, information on deadlines and regulations have not been detailed yet.
“We want to voluntarily do this,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA. “We believe it will help educate customers.”
Voluntarily? Yeah, voluntarily do the right thing right before it practically becomes a law. Educate? I assume most people know the health risks of consuming greasy, fat-riddled chemical-induced burgers and nuggets. However, according to 2011 research from Stanford, customers visiting Starbucks stores with posted calories purchased 6% fewer calories than those visiting stores without calorie postings. But Starbucks isn’t exactly a diet disaster like McDonald’s. My guess is that the majority of McDonald’s goers already know their meal choice is a poor one. Hopefully this change will further educate any oblivious costumers about how nutritionally poor their Big Mac is.
Here is a taste of what that education will look like: A meal consisting of a Big Mac and medium fries has 920 calories. Add a 16-ounce Coca-Cola, and the count rises to 1,140 calories. That is more than half of an average person’s daily caloric needs. Um, hello!? That is ONE meal. While I would like to say everything in moderation, the rest of your meals that day would need to consist of carrot sticks for you to break even with that fat bomb.
While McDonalds’ officials claim to be doing their patrons a favor, how about giving a little more. How about accompanying the calorie count with a complimentary nutrition and ingredient list? And an estimated medical fee… because that is what people will most likely end up with if this fast-food nation continues to progress. In reality, the calorie count in your child’s Happy Meal should probably be the least of your worries. It’s what those calories are comprised of that is dangerous. Highly processed and stuffed with additives, nothing on that menu can really be deemed healthy. Nuts, avocado and sweet potatoes are high in calories too. However, vegan or not, I would reach for a handful of cashews or fresh guacamole before I would ever dig into a McDonald’s… well… anything.
Thinking positive, McDonald’s decision could possibly encourage other restaurant chains that haven’t already jumped on the caloric revealing bandwagon to do the same. And if there were some consumers out there still wallowing in denial about the calorie count of their McFlurry, well hopefully this will help them make healthier choices.
Now, in addition to a calorie count, how do we persuade corporate McDonald’s to include Surgeon General Warnings, or talk about how their animals are treated, fed, transported and distributed, and their environmental impact?
What do you think about this change? Do you think it will affect the way McDonald’s patrons munch?