Why We Need To Talk About Fast Food

October 11, 2012   48 Comments

Snack Girl is obsessed with McDonald’s. I just can’t stop thinking about this corporation or fast food. Why?

McDonalds Kale

At least one quarter of American adults eat fast food every day. One out of every eight adults has worked at a fast food restaurant at one time in their lives.

On Sunday, I found myself in a lecture hall with none other than Cynthia Goody, PhD, MBA, RD, LD, Senior Director of Nutrition for McDonald’s. I was attending the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Philadelphia to learn about the latest in nutrition research.

Cynthia informed the audience that 25 million people each day eat at McDonald’s. Clearly my obsession is warranted. Every 14 days, McDonald’s could have fed EVERYONE in the United States one meal. Wow.

The title of her presentation was “How McDonald’s Is Improving Nutrition” and I must say I was excited. Here we have a company that could change what Americans eat in a positive way.

She talked about the oatmeal and the fact that they had added blueberries to it in the summer. Seems that McDonald’s didn’t want to add them all year because then the blueberries wouldn’t be from a local source. By local, McDonald’s means they source the blueberries from the United States and not from South America. I don’t think Cynthia has been reading up on the “Farm to Fork” movement.

Of course, I was disappointed by the initiatives she described because I kept hoping she would mention that McDonald’s was going to serve more vegetables. When it came to the “Question and Answer” section of the talk, I found myself looking at the microphone and wondering if anyone was going to ask a question.

There wasn’t anyone lined up so I (without thinking) decided to jump up and challenge Cynthia.

I asked, “Has McDonald’s ever thought about putting kale on the menu?”

At that point, I thought she was going to call some uniformed people to put me in a rubber room. She informed me that she loved kale chips and they had checked into jicama and snow peas. She answered me with a big smile on her face.

I felt like a complete idiot. What was I doing trying to convince McDonald’s to serve kale? Am I truly out of my mind?

But then something cool happened. This tweet was sent out during the session:

@dgrreen: @Snack_Girl_ wants @mcdonalds to sell kale. A Big Mac with a side of leafy green chips? I like it. #FNCE @eatrightFNCE

@dgrreen was in the room and actually liked my question! Hey, he even knew who I was and was following my Twitter feed.

Then, I had this crazy idea. If enough of us Tweeted, Facebooked, Suggested, Complained, and just COMMENTED - maybe we would see a kale smoothie someday at McDonald’s.

or kale chips or a massaged kale Caesar salad (doesn't that sound yummy?).

Then, all the kale growers in the U.S.A. would have huge contracts supplying McDonald's with tons of kale. Hurray!

Okay, I know I'm dreaming, but you have to start somewhere, right? For now, you can go to McD's for your Big Mac and eat it at home with your side of kale chips.

What do you think of the state of fast food in this country? Do you think it could change?

Here is my protest tweet:

@McDonalds We deserve KALE today. Please serve more vegetables.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 48 )

Super Post! I will tweet away about the need for kale at McDos.

I don't know if I could go for Kale Chips at McDonalds, but it's healthy!!! I'm on board!!

I don't believe fast food is going away any tme soon. I do believe changes can gradually occur step by step if enough people get behind them. A small change I'd like to see is replacing all of their white bread products with high fiber "light" bread. If you wanted to be more bold, you could give a piece of fresh fruit instead of fries in the value meals and make fries an add on.

Thank you for asking the question! Pretty sure my tot would not want to be in the same zip code with a Kale chip, but, if they gave her a pack of grapes or mandarin oranges I'm sure she'd ditch the fries. Or at least not protest so hard when I lie to her that they were out. She won't touch the apples, they taste very chemically...

Sorry to be so cynical, but I have been around a lot longer than Snackgirl resulting in a better grasp of reality. The scenario: McDonald's begins serving Kale chips; the preparation method results in a serving of 350 calories; they are a big hit; kale demand spikes; Monsanto finds a gene in an earthworm that shortens the kale plant's time to maturity by 15 days, patents it, and through legal maneuverings related to its patent protection of the earthworm's gene, vertically integrates the kale production system. In short,the food industry takes a healthy food and converts it into high calorie frankenfood. Good article though; entertaining and well-written.

McDonald's has made some attempt to improve their menu. On the rare occasions I treat my kids to it, they like the apple slices, the 100% fruit juice and they don't even mind the smaller french fry size. However, they still have a long way to go. I would LOVE if they began using multigrain or whole wheat buns and wraps instead of the dreadful white stuff. There grilled chicken wraps are great, but not so healthy with a white wrap. I definitely think ALL fast food chains need to make some serious overhauls, but then again, people continue to eat there regardless so maybe it is not that important for them to do.

I admire your enthusiasm and would have found it fun to watch the exchange :) Kale would fail at McDs though. They make some small concessions to try and serve healthy choices I guess but the issue is the customer. Folks going to McDs aren't going for a health meal, nor would they likely shell out the $ for a serving of kale. Hate to sound so cynical but I don't thn the issue is the corporation - they serve what their customers want.

My kids prefer butternut squash fries over kale chips, but I'd love that kind of change!!!

Even if they gave you a choice of either the white roll or a whole grain roll that would make me at least thinking twice about stopping and getting a grilled chicken on whole wheat roll instead of driving right by and going to Subway where I can at least add what I want on a sandwich.

I would love to be able to drive up to a window at McDonald's or anywhere and order healthy choices. I wish subway would at least put up a window. If I could get a grilled chicken wrap with kale at McDonald's or chicken noodle kale soup, or salad with kale I would love it. How about spinach too add that in a smoothie you can't even tell. I try to steer clear of fast food places cause I hate putting nuggets in my kids bellies it's convient and I make them get milk and apples(skip the extra fries they now add) but I feel very guilty when they eat that stuff and I should.

I would love to see kale chips at Micky D's but would really love to see them add less sugar to their food items. My elderly mom has started eating at McDonald's recently and she has gained weight she can't explain. I think it is the oatmeal that she believes is healthy--but as I learned on Snack Girl is full of unnecessary sugar. It's all about economics, so if we could convince the McDonald Corp. that their customers would live longer, therefore be alive to continue to spend and dine there--just maybe they'd consider reducing sugar quantities.

What should our tweet to McDonald's be?!

I would love kale chips at McD's! However, I have to agree with Martin's post about them turning a healthy snack into junk (that would end up doing weird things to our bodies). Great idea though!

I think adding kale chips to the menu is good in theory, but in practice I'm not sure it would last long. Personally,I would try them out if they were served as an alternative to french fries,but then again, I don't go to fast food places a lot.Making chips,whether it be kale or potato would be a different approach than if you got them at a fast food restaurant or any other restaurant. For one thing a place like McDonalds,even if using fresh kale,would more than likely deep fry them similar to their fries. Fresh kale would probably go bad quickly unless they were processed and filled with preservatives. However,if they had a high quality supplier that produced pre-packaged pre-prepared bagged kale chips (meaning no preservatives or fried in excessive amounts of unhealthy oil.)then it could be deemed as a healthier choice. But in order to get the healthier kale chips,it would probably be expensive and when people go for fast food they don't want to spend a lot of money.

Interesting article. I love that you stood up and asked a question! I don’t believe fast food will ever really change though. I just don’t eat there, period, never. No special trips to McD. The food is so gross. Even the apple slices taste weird. If the kids want a special treat I will take them for ice cream but we never, ever eat fast food. My hope is if more people will say no to fast food, they will be forced to change.

25 million people a DAY. Now that is sad. No wonder there are so many overweight people. Even if they would add a spinach salad with mandarin oranges with plain old balsamic vinegar would be a healthy option. Stop coming up with new unhealthy options.

Of course kale at McDonald's is a good idea! And I applaud you, Snack-Girl, for being brave and asking, and also for caring about healthy eating.

Here's the problem. Say McDonald's does serve kale - in the form of a smoothie. They make that smoothie with low-fat yogurt (whole milk yogurt is best, as it is healthy fats and fat does NOT contribute to fat). They add high fructose corn syrup, because the smoothie needs to be sweeter! They add carageenen, to thicken it (a carcinogen), plus about 40 other ingredients as is their norm that just aren't needed and aren't healthy. So suddenly that kale isn't so healthy anymore. McDonald's needs to do more than ADD healthy items. They need to take OUT some of the crap.

Just tweeted this for fun:

@McDonalds We deserve KALE today. Please serve more vegetables.

Cool, Lisa! That made the Cheers theme start running through my head "Where everybody knows your name" :)

I'm happy to say that we almost never eat fast food. The only realy excptions are when we are traveling (usually Wendy's since they have baked potatoes, etc.) or the occasional Sonic trip as a treat. If there was actually something healthy at fast food restaurants, I might go on occasion!

I think fast food is here to stay. The people that go to those places aren't looking to eat healthy. If they get a salad, more often than not, they are drowning it in a high calorie dressing. December of 2011 was the last time I CHOSE to ate at McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Arby's or Wendy's. As a single girl, it was convenient to swing through the drive thru for dinner 5 or more nights a week. Now I visit Subway about once a week and it's usually on the night I do 2 Zumba classes. Snack Girl, I truly admire your efforts, but until the people in this country wake up and realize the garbage they're putting into their bodies, things aren't going to change. I tell people about your blog. Hopefully we'll educate enough people that these places feel the financial impact of our decisions and make a change. Until then, it's wishful thinking. Good for you for having the courage to ask that question, though!

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