Friday, September 14, 2012

McDonald's Listens to Moms with Nutrition Changes


A couple of weeks ago, we talked about nutrition and how it affects academic performance. I shared some great breakfast recipe links and ideas, as well as healthy snack options.

Of course, making my kids a homemade meal is at the top of my list (and my mother's, too, judging by nagging repetitive phone and email conversations). But I'll tell you the same thing I tell her: The reality is that I simply cannot fix every single meal for them. Some moms do. I am in total awe of them. But quite frankly, I'm not the world's best cook. And for me, time is a big issue. I want fast and easy and nutritious. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it isn't. Most of the time, I don't really find cooking enjoyable, but rather simply another task I have to do to make it through the day. (This is really ironic because my daughter and I love to experiment in the kitchen, or sit and watch cooking shows. What's the deal?) I really need a good meal planning service. But that's another post.

Anyway, as I was saying, sometimes I need a break, or sometimes we are on the run from one thing to another, or simply want to get together with friends. We live in a rural area with very few restaurant options. In fact, I can count them all on one hand. And - yep! - McDonald's is one of them.

Now 10 - or maybe even 5 - years ago, I would probably have had reservations about letting my kids eat there on a regular basis. But today I don't really blink because there are far more healthy choices available on their menu than there has been in the past. We frequently stop to pick up a strawberry-banana real-fruit smoothie or fruit and yogurt parfait during the summer. (Note: We are smoothie aficionados.) And as far as my daughter is concerned, nothing beats their grilled chicken snack wraps. That's pretty much my standard fare, too, though I like the salads. 

This week, I had the chance to attend a McDonald's event where they announced new changes that are coming to their restaurants.

Are you a mom? Apparently last year, they conducted a number of Listening Tours across the nation. Did you attend one of these? And according to their President, Jan Fields, they got three things out of those events:

1 - Moms wanted McD's to make it easier to find nutritional information about the menu items at the restaurants.

2 - They also wanted more balanced-diet options available not just for their kids, but for adults, too.

3 - They wanted more variety in the menu items.

So in response, McDonald's will be adding calorie counts to all their menu boards starting next week. They've also created a free nutrition app for mobile phones (it is very visual so even Spanish-speakers should find it easy to use), and are launching a new elearning program to educate their employees using the USDA's dietary guidelines... so that when you ask your server a nutrition question, they might be able to actually answer it. :)
In their efforts to provide healthier menu items, they've also begun to expand and are working towards offering choices from all of the food groups. Ummm...is this really McDonald's? Yes! Here are a few changes they've already made, that were especially important to me as a mom:

• They have reduced the amount of sodium in 70% of their burgers, and 100% of their chicken!

• They no longer offer whole milk. All of their milk is fat-free - including the chocolate milk.

• Their salads offer 2 -3 cups of veggies.

• Their real-fruit smoothies serve 1/2 cup of fruit.

• Are committed to offering more seasonal produce, as they did with their fresh blueberry banana nut oatmeal this year.

By 2020, their goal is to reduce the amount of sugar and saturated fats on their menu (but don't worry, their famous burgers and fries will still be available).

I had the pleasure of talking with Sylvia Meléndez Klinger, a nutritionist working with McDonald's. She was just the loveliest and most informative person to talk with and I'm looking forward to sharing more of what she said with you soon.

But for now, if you're wondering what's coming to the menu next year, then lick your lips because they are adding blueberry pomegranate smoothies, egg-white breakfast sandwiches on a whole grain muffin (8g of whole grain & 0% fat!), and the McWraps full of fresh veggies that have proven to be really popular in Europe. 

Now, if we can just get them to add some grilled McNuggets or a Snack Wrap to the Happy Meals...

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but I was invited, and did attend, their live announcement event.

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