If you visit the McDonald’s website you will find phrases like, “McDonald’s is one of life’s many small pleasures that millions of people around the world enjoy each day. Great food. Fun to eat. Casual environment. Local and familiar. And always something new.” They claim to be committed to the well-being of their customers and consider their food to be “quality and wholesome.”
In reality McDonald’s is a giant corporation with nothing but profits in mind. They claim to be dedicated to the people, but in reality, they are not. If they were so concerned with the well-being of their customers, they would not market their food as “healthy, quality, or wholesome.” The truth is their food is full of fat, grease, cholesterol, and sodium. Even a moderately regular diet of their products can be detrimental to your health. They pretend to be health oriented, using pictures of athletes and Olympic gold winners on their packing and in their advertising. The fact that they continue to serve their unhealthy food to millions of people each day shows that profits are their key motivator, not the consumer’s health.
There are over 30,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide. Nearly every town of any substantial size in the U.S. has a McDonald’s. In fact, it is almost impossible not see the golden arches on a daily basis. Television ads promote the franchise, depicting it as a wonderful, friendly place to bring your family for a quick and easy meal at an unbeatable price. Children beg their parents to take them to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal that contains a cheap plastic toy. Without even realizing it, most people eat at McDonald’s every day because of their wallet-friendly dollar menu in which you can order a cheeseburger, fries, and small drink for around three bucks, and because there is at least one McDonald’s in every town in the U.S.
Americans, with their rose colored glasses, see McDonald’s as the epitome of fast food restaurants. “Fast, friendly, service,” combined with a dollar menu, make it the perfect place to stop in with the kids after a long day of work and school. You can feed a family of four for around twenty dollars. The kids love McDonald’s for their kid-friendly atmosphere featuring the lovable Ronald McDonald and his gang of mutant food friends, play places, and, of course, the Happy Meals. It’s a place a whole family can agree on.
The USDA has long made it a requirement that all packaged foods display its nutritional facts on their packaging. On these tables you can see the nutritional information for the product and see the recommended daily values based on either a 2,000 calorie diet or a 2,500 calories diet. McDonald’s has recently started to print the nutritional values of its menu items on the packaging that their food comes in. On their website they make it sound like the decision was made for the benefit of their costumers, when in reality, they started it to avoid the many lawsuits and complaints that consumers started filing on the grounds of unknowingly becoming obese due to McDonald’s menu items.
Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, the USDA recommends less than 65 grams of fat per day (20 of those are saturated), less than 300 mg of cholesterol, less than 2,400 mg of sodium, and less than 300 grams of carbohydrates. These are the recommended values for healthy individuals, these figures decrease dramatically for the middle-aged and older individuals. Keeping these figures in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more popular items on the McDonald’s menu.
One Double Cheeseburger contains 460 calories, 23 grams of total fat, and 1140 mg of sodium. In one double cheeseburger, you will get 20% of your daily caloric needs, 35% of the recommended fat intake, and 47% of the recommended sodium intake. That’s not counting the French fries and soda pop that nearly everyone orders when they purchase a McDonald’s “meal.”
A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has a staggering 730 calories, 40 grams of fat, 1330 mg of sodium, 160 mg of cholesterol and 46 grams of carbohydrates. Say you order a large fry with that and an ice cold Coke to wash down all of that salty food. A large fry contains 570 calories, 30 grams of fat, 330 mg of sodium, and 70 grams of carbohydrates. A large Coke contains 310 calories, 20 mg of sodium, and 86 grams of carbohydrates. In total, your meal with consist of 1610 calories, 70 grams of fat, 1680 mg of sodium, and 202 grams of carbohydrates. That is 80% of your daily calories, 107% of your daily fat, 70% of your recommended sodium intake, 67% of your carbohydrates, and 53% of your recommended daily cholesterol intake, all in one fast, cheap and convenient meal!
McDonald’s has also become a favorite for breakfast. Many Americans find it convenient to drive through the “drive-thru” on their way to work. Many people are fooled by their new menu items like the Big Breakfast and the Deluxe Breakfast, which seem to look like a healthy balanced breakfast with items like scrambled eggs, pancakes and sausage. They might be surprised to find out that the Big Breakfast packs 730 calories and 1470 mg of sodium, while the Deluxe Breakfast packs a whopping 1220 calories and 1920 mg of sodium. The Deluxe Breakfast will give you 61% percent of your recommended calorie intake and 80% percent of your recommended sodium intake, all packed into the most important meal of the day, breakfast.
Most people think they are getting healthier items when they order a chicken sandwich, chicken strips, or one of McDonald’s many new salad choices. When in reality the chicken sandwiches are just as full of calories, fat, and sodium as their beef counterparts. The Premium Crispy Chicken Sandwich contains 500 calories, 1380 mg of sodium, and 60 grams of cholesterol. A five piece order of Chicken Selects Strips has 630 calories and 1550 mg of sodium. Any salad containing chicken will have between 300 and 400 calories, not to mention the salad dressing which, with the exception of the Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (40 calories), averages around 100 calories each. Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar dressing has 190 calories per serving.
The seriousness of these overwhelming values are put into perspective in Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, Supersize Me. Spurlock decides to use himself as a human guinea pig and vows to eat at a McDonald’s everyday for one month. During this month he will eat three square meals a day at McDonald’s and keep his activity level to 5,000 steps a day, that of the average American.
Before Spurlock begins his queasy quest he visits four different specialists to confirm that he is a healthy individual with average cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure. During the course of the film Spurlock’s health deteriorates. After only two weeks he gains 17 pounds and after 21 days doctors urge him to stop eating at McDonald’s because he is at risk of liver failure.
Au, Wayne. “Supersize Me” Fall 2004 Rethinking Schools