Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Why McDonald’s hipster cafe is a scary development

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Did you know that McDonald’s is running a “hipster” café called The Corner in Australia? Apparently, after failed attempts to add more nutritious items to the regular McDonald’s menu, McDonald’s has decided to make the effort to capture the more health-conscious consumer by starting a new operation.

It’s difficult to say whether or not the food actually is more nutritious than the traditional McDonald’s fare. They don’t have the nutrition information posted online and seem only to have a facebook page. According to reviewers in this article the food is more upscale than that at McDonald’s. However, it still has that mass manufactured quality to it. Nothing truly artisan about it.

Okay, so without knowledge of the nutrition information, what’s my issue with this Corner Café? You know I must have an issue with it or I wouldn’t be blogging about it! My issue is the domination of our food industry by just a few players.

In grocery stores we see more and more small, quality, ethical companies being purchased by the giants. Starbucks is notorious for swooping in, saturating markets, and edging out the competition. We have Monsanto controlling most of the seeds used to grow our food. McDonald’s is already the most ubiquitous “restaurant” in the world. Now we have them masquerading as a local coffee shop. Allowing giant companies to own (read: control) our food is a dangerous road that we’re already pretty far down.

When there aren’t enough players in the game prices can be driven-up and quality can be neglected. We also run the risk of disaster if something happens along the food supply chain if everything’s coming from one place.

Maybe I’m being alarmist; maybe not. Personally, I’d rather err on the side of caution and support a local café rather than McDonald’s.


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McDouble Cheeseburger: The latest superfood!

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I love it when you guys send me blogspiration. I’d like to thank my friend Ian for alerting me to this article in the New York Post, praising McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger as the “greatest food in human history”. Now, I’m pretty sure the author is attempting to get a rise out of us “macrobiotic Marxists” by describing those of us who care about nutrition with those terms. As I’m neither macrobiotic, nor Marxist, nor could I afford $300 on highlights each month. And really, these descriptions are contradictory. If my recollection of Marxism is accurate I think that affordable food would be something of import to a Marxist. I do find it a little absurd that the author suggests that those of us who care about healthy food do not care about affordability. As someone who has only money for bills and food I can assure you that I still care about the nutrient content of my food and I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only one.

So, what’s the argument anyway? Apparently the McDouble cheeseburger is actually a nutritional powerhouse: “It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.” And it’s cheap. Only $1.00 in many US locations. I’m not sure what it costs in Canada. The McDonald’s website doesn’t tell me and I don’t really feel like trekking to McD’s to find out. I’m guessing it’s more like $3. Still pretty inexpensive. So, we’ve seen what it has going for it. But that’s not the whole story.

The nutrition information also appears to be slightly different in Canada. It clocks in at 430 calories, 24 g of protein, 2 g of fibre (that’s a pretty pathetic amount of fibre for a meal considering that adult males should get at least 38 g of fibre a day and adult females at least 25 g), 25% DV calcium. I admit, the protein and calcium aren’t too shabby. However, the article fails to note that the sodium is 1, 150 mg (about 77% of the recommended intake for most healthy adults!), 22 g of fat (11 g of saturated and 1 g of trans – this is quite a lot of fat and a fair bit of undesirable fat at that as it’s advisable not to consume any trans-fat). Beyond what’s on the nutrition facts label are a whole lot of missing ingredients. How about the fact that you should have vegetables constitute at least half of your plate. I don’t think the three little slices of pickle or the globs of ketchup count as vegetables. And how about the actual ingredients in that burger. The bun, according to McDonald’s contains the following:

Regular Bun: Enriched wheat flour, water, high fructose corn syrup and/or glucose-fructose and/or sugar, yeast,
vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola), salt, calcium sulphate, calcium propionate, monoglycerides, enzymes,
azodicarbonamide, AND MAY CONTAIN ANY OR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING IN VARYING PROPORTIONS:
diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, BHT, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, wheat starch, calcium
peroxide, wheat gluten, inactive yeast, sorbitol, dextrin, malted barley flour, ascorbic acid, citric acid, calcium
stearate, calcium iodate, silicon dioxide. CONTAINS: WHEAT, BARLEY. MAY CONTAIN: SESAME SEEDS

The beef patty is supposedly 100% pure beef. After all of the horse meat scandals in the UK I’m not sure that we can take their word for it but we have no reason not too. However, it’s also important to consider the environment in which the cows were raised, the diet they were fed (after all you are what you eat!), the conditions of the slaughterhouse and processing plant, as well as the handling by shippers and store employees. It’s definitely not a farm-to-table meal.

So, if you don’t care about your health or the health of the planet then yes, McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburgers sure are a bargain.


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McDonald’s should get rid of their salads

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A few weeks after the McDonald’s dietitian was extolling their healthy menu options during an interview and a week or so after a nine-year-old girl pleads for McDonald’s to stop pushing junk food on kids, the company’s CEO announces that their salads are a failing venture.

Apparently the salads only account for about 2-3% of sales. Does this mean that McDonald’s will ditch the salads? We don’t know, but I think that they should.

Shocking, I know; a dietitian suggesting McDonald’s get rid of their salads. Don’t get too worked-up just yet. I think that in their current incarnation the salads should go. The salads can have more calories and fat than many of their burgers. Yes, they may have a few more nutrients as there’s some vegetables in them, but  not enough to merit the health halo they have for being salads. It’s almost worse for customers to be operating under the false assumption that they’re making healthy choices than for them to be opting for traditional fast food fare.

There may be a number of reasons why the salads aren’t generating much revenue: most customers aren’t there for salads, the cost of salads is quite high, the cost of the ingredients may mean they have a low profit margin, the salads aren’t very good. If McDonald’s could create a better (i.e. more appealing and healthier) salad menu then they might see sales increase. As it stands, it’s a bit of a vicious cycle and McDonald’s can say “we tried to sell salads but people just didn’t want them”. Maybe this is true, but maybe the problem lies with the salads.


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McDonald’s, dietitians, and ethics

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It was all over the news last week. McDonald’s Director of Nutrition (a dietitian) proclaiming that their food is healthy.

A part of me feels sorry for this poor woman. As a dietitian, I know how difficult it can be to find work in our field. It also made me sad to read her statement that she eats McDonald’s food 1-2 times a day and is already feeding foods from there to her two-year-old child. I understand that she has an obligation to make her employer look good. However, as a dietitian, I also find it incredibly distasteful that a fellow professional would be promoting McDonald’s as a healthy choice. Where does an RDs ethical responsibility lie? With his/her employer or with the public?

In the interview, Cindy Goody, the RD in question, mentions a couple of products that are served on buns made with 8 grams of whole grains. What the heck does this mean? Not much, actually. It just means that out of the total weight of ingredients in the bun, 8 grams of it is whole grain. An average bun is about 50-60 grams. That means that the remaining 42-52 grams are from other flour, sugar, and other ingredients that go into a bun. It doesn’t mean that the bun contains 8 grams of fibre. Not particularly impressive.

Goody also mentions that foods are being made healthier by reducing calories and sodium. As all you nutrition savvy people know, removing crap from an unhealthy food does not automatically make it healthy. You are still likely to be missing out on important nutrients (such as fibre, healthy fats, potassium, calcium, antioxidants, etc.) if you’re regularly eating from McDonald’s “healthy” menu options. Sure, there are better and worse choices you can make if you’re eating at McDonald’s but highly processed fast food is never going to be a match for a balanced, home-cooked meal.