Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I'm loving' it - but should I?

As parents of two "always-hungry" children, McDonalds has literally become our second home. My wife always wishes that they would have some kind of loyalty program because we could have collected enough miles by now to enjoy a nice round-the-world ticket for two, and perhaps a second retirement home, by the time our children get over the craze of McDonalds.

Yes. We are aware that McDonalds food is not good for them. Eating this type of food on a regular basis is a sure-fire ticket towards obesity. Unfortunately for our children, we happen to be a working couple living in a country that lives on a fast-food culture. And neither of us are good at cooking.

But is their food really that bad? McDonalds now publishes the nutritional values of all their food items. I recently picked up a copy to see what to make of it. I have segregated the data between main items, salads, dressings, and side dishes; and I have sorted the items from the most calories to the least.

Main ItemsCaloriesFat(g)Carbs(g)Protein(g)
Chicken Big Mac593324729
Spicy McChicken583354027
Qtr.Pounder w/Cheese530303828
Big Mac500264226
Veggie Burger485275010
Chicken Burger317143314
6-pcs Nuggets310131210

Chicken Ceasar Salad1574526
Green Salad118848
Caesar Salad56335

1000 Islands Dressing20517131
Caesar Dressing19415131
Light Vinaigrette400100

Side OrdersCaloriesFat(g)Carbs(g)Protein(g)
McFlurry Kit Kat34913489
Sundae Hot Fudge32311497
Sundae Caramel3197596
McFlurry Oreo29610438
Sundae Strawberry2596466
Apple Pie22012262
McFries Regular Size21010263
Icecream Cone1504234

The following items (though available at McDonalds) are not available on their nutrition sheet, so I pulled it off from the calorie counter database.

Orange Juice140-332
Coca Cola Classic(M)210-58-
Coca Cola Diet1---

They also have a Tuna salad that I eat regularly, but I can't find the nutrition information on it. But based on similar salads, I expect it to be 192 calories with 9g fat, 10g carbohydrates and 16g of protein.

So now we have all the nutritional information, what to make of it?

Well, first of all, not ALL of the food at McDonalds is bad. If you have:
   a. Chicken Caesar Salad  (157 calories). Throw the dressing away.
   b. Cheese Burger (299 calories)
   c. Diet Coke (1 Calorie)
You actually have a decent meal (457 calories) with a nice balance between Carbs (36 g or 25% of your daily allowance), Proteins (a healthy 26g) and Fat (17g or 25% of your daily allowance). A 25% portion of your daily needs makes perfect sense since it's one of your main meals.

The culprits are those where the food is fried (Chicken Big Mac, Spicy McChicken etc.) or where the food has a lot of mayonnaise and other dressings (most of the big burgers), and of course, the empty calories (fries, ice-creams and sodas).

So it is possible to eat healthy at McDonalds. It's just damn hard to do so.

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