Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a new look at mcdonald's

I am weird about food.  When it comes to ordering in a restaurant, I'm admittedly snobby, snubbing lots things that are probably perfectly fine.  I've always been atop an ethical fence when it comes to meat, spending months in Vegetarian Land only to return to occasional carnivorous ways; usually in response to some sort of braised, rich deliciousness whispering my name.  I falter.  I'm human.

But a few years ago, I saw Super Size Me and Food, Inc., quickly followed by a YouTube video claiming to display McDonald's products that had lasted eight years without spoiling.  This trifecta of scary food news was enough to permanently change my eating habits in many ways, lead me to give up McDonald's since then and kept me off meat for nearly a year.  Like I said, I'm weird about food.  My kids saw the YouTube video and gave their beloved Happy Meals up as well. 

So, when I received an invitation to attend a McDonald's event aimed to introduce new healthy products and dispel myths associated to their food and the way it's prepared, I jumped at the chance.   The Libra in me needed to ask the hard questions, balance out the scales of information and hear what McDonald's had to say - after all, the information that has led to my reaction is completely one-sided.

Let me tell you, this event, the first of its kind at the downtown Chicago anniversary store, was impressive.  Guests, who included moms, writers, bloggers and Chicago movers and shakers, tasted delicious new items and heard about healthy options from a registered dietician.  We learned how McDonald's has made healthy changes that impact our children in good ways and what substitutions or a la carte choices exist that make meals even more healthy.  I learned that McDonald's will meet any special request when it comes to salt or seasoning and will help you limit sugar whenever possible.  Did you know you could buy a serving of fresh, plump, seasonal blueberries at McDonald's?  Did you know you could replace your Happy Meal fries with them?

I tried the Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken.  (Yes, I made myself eat meat.)  And it was great!  I'd say it was even on par with restaurants I consider to be a step above McDonald's in terms of taste and health.  While I didn't like the chicken wrap I selected, the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal was amazing and the Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait delectable.  As a infrequent flyer when it comes to meat, it's good to know that there are plenty of choices for someone like me, all day long.

How many Happy Meal fries have your kids wasted over the years?  I can't count the number that I have shoved, cold, into my mouth because I couldn't bare to see those delicious nuggets go in the trash.  (Part of motherhood's "No Food Left Behind " plan.)  Well, thanks to a fry revamp, there will be no more waste.  For those of you that choose fries, they will come in a perfect and adorable kid-sized package.

By the way, I did ask the hard-hitting questions about allegations in the movies and videos previously mentioned.  While I didn't get a runaround, I'm not sure I got what I was looking for.  But I did walk away feeling that McDonald's has gotten a bad rap, even though they meet all USDA regulations and go beyond most health standards compared to those we have at home.  For instance, how long would you keep an undressed salad in your fridge?  A few days?  At McDonald's it's 8 hours, max. If I have issues, it seems I should set my sights on the people who set the regulations, not the organizations following the rules.

Is McDonald's my idea of perfection when it comes to the best healthy options for my kids? No, not perfection.  But I now know that McDonald's is making decisions, creating alternatives and preparing and storing food in ways that I can respect.  What a relief to have this convenient and yummy option back in our lineup without worry.  They continue to step up their game when it comes to healthful eating and I'll no longer think about them as a fast food option, but instead, good food, fast.  With so many on-the-go meals needed in our busy lives, it's a relief to have McD's back in the game and assisting parents with our number one priority: raising healthy kids.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value.   Regardless, the opinions expressed are solely my own and I only endorse products or services that I personally believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


RocketWriter said...

This was a good event and eye-opening for me as well. Great summary, Molly!

alenaslife said...

I'm so sorry I couldn't be there with you, but I loved reading your take on this. Funny, I had the same 1 year ban on McDs after that book and movie too -- but it's just too hard to stay away. Can't wait to actually try and ask for who wheat buns and blueberries at my local drive-thru.