Monday, May 11, 2015

Can You Eat Healthy At McDonald's? #McDOpenDoorTour

Can you eat healthy at McDonald's? The answer is no, right? McDonald's food is full of fat, fake stuff, and just kind of gross, right? You might stop there on the fly on a road trip, when pressed for time, or when in need of a quick dinner with overtired kids. You might go there for the kids to enjoy the air conditioned indoor play place on a sweltering summer day (guilty on that one!). However, you wouldn't eat there if you actually wanted a decent, fresh meal, right? Isn't that the general public consensus?

I was recently invited to an open door tour of McDonald's to learn about the quality of the food they offer. Given my preconceived notions above, I was skeptical. I figured I would go, see the restaurant tour, here what they had to say, but leave feeling the same way that I did when I got there. In reality though, that wasn't the case. I was pretty blown away by what I heard there which surprised me. The most interesting part of the day for me was listening to John Cisna speak. Have you heard of him? Nope, I hadn't either.

Me and John - I'm lovin' it
John is a, small town, Iowa high school science teacher who conducted an experiment with his students where he ate ONLY McDonald's food for each and every meal for six months. Only after his experiment did corporate McDonald's find out about it. He must have packed on the pounds and became so unhealthy, right? Nope, he actually LOST almost 60 pounds and lowered his cholesterol. How is that possible? How could you possibly eat McDonald's multiple times a day for that long and actually become more healthy?

John's sophomore students were actually the ones who chose his meals each day. They used My Meal Builder on the McDonald's website to find out the full nutritional information of all of the products and to build John's menu each day. They used the parameters of a 2,000 calorie diet and 15 required nutrients based on the FDA's recommended daily allowances. They were able to find that there were 56 meal combos that John could eat off of McDonald's menu to keep him within the goal parameters. The only nutrient that they could not keep within the daily allowances was sodium. John said that he generally consumed about 166% of the recommended amount for sodium which he compensated for by increasing his water intake.

Ninety days into the experiment John had lost 37 pounds, 7 inches off his waist, and lowered his cholesterol from 249 to 170. These health improvements were the result of the McDonald's only food and doing 45 minutes of walking four to five days a week. Isn't that pretty crazy? I was totally surprised by the results but I suppose I shouldn't be. This is the perfect example of it's WHAT you eat and not WHERE you eat. There are healthy choices out there everywhere (yes, even at McDonald's!) but it's up to you to make the choice.

An average day for John consisted of eating:

2 Egg White Delight McMuffins
Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

Premium Southwest Salad
Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait

An item off the value menu (including fries!)

One takeaway from my McDonald's tour is that you can customize your meals and orders at McDonald's to however best fits your needs. Switch the dressing, hold the sauce, remove a bun - whatever you need, McDonald's will actually do it for you. One of the reasons that John was able to lose weight and become more healthy, is because the food that McDonald's serves surprisingly (to me, at least) is actually not that bad for you. They use 100% fresh ground beef for their burgers. Produce is grown and shipped fresh (with most of it coming from U.S. suppliers). They use brands that you buy in the grocery store such as Dannon, McCain, and Tyson. Those "egg rings" in your Egg McMuffin? Those are USDA Fresh Grade A eggs that were cracked right on the griddle for you. I know this one for sure because I got to head behind the counter and crack a bunch of them myself! For the record, I did a horrible job and broke a shell in it so they had to throw away the whole batch. Clearly, I was not meant to work at McDonald's!

Not as easy as it looks

A peak at the produce in the cooler
So now after my tour of the McDonald's kitchen, seeing the food demonstrations, and listening to John speak, am I packing the kids up each day and heading to McDonald's? No. Am I way more aware of the changes that McDonald's has made to keep up with consumer's needs for healthy and fresh food? Definitely. Really you can blame fast food for obesity and poor health, but really it comes down to you and the choices that you make for yourself and your family. Educate yourself, make healthy choices, eat proper portion sizes, and enjoy a vanilla shake every once in a while (my favorite!)

*Disclosure: I was invited to attend a McDonald's Open-Door Tour and received compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
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