McDonald’s to post calories on menus: About time or a buzz kill?

Would you order this or the items below? Check out the calories and it may help you decide? I went with the chicken and beans at the Panda Express while traveling in California this summer. It's already required there to post the calories and I love that!

Would you order this or the items below? Check out the calories, and it may help you decide? I went with the chicken and beans at the Panda Express while traveling in California this summer. It's already required there to post the calories, and I love that!

Seeing the calories sure changed my order at the Panda Express in California.

Seeing the calories sure changed my order at the Panda Express in California.

Starting Monday, McDonald’s restaurants across the country will post calories on inside and drive-through menus.

The world’s largest hamburger chain is posting the calories voluntarily ahead of a regulation that could require major chains to post the information as early as next year.

From The Associated Press: (I bolded for  quick read.)

…”We want to voluntarily do this,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA. “We believe it will help educate customers.”

In cities such as New York and Philadelphia where posting calorie information is already required, however, Fields notes that the information has not changed what customers choose to order.

“When it’s all said and done, the menu mix doesn’t change,” she said. “But I do think people feel better knowing this information.”

The chain also plans to announce that its restaurants in Latin America, which are owned by a franchisee, will start providing calorie information on menus this spring.

McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, Ill., already posts calorie information in Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The decision to post calorie information in the U.S. follows the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which includes a regulation that would require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calorie information. The timetable for carrying out that requirement is being worked out.

Corporate Accountability International, which has urged McDonald’s to stop marketing its food to children, notes that the chain has fought efforts to institute menu labeling in local jurisdictions in the past and said its latest move was “certainly not voluntary.”

The posting of calorie information isn’t a magic bullet in fighting obesity but could have a big effect over time, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates on nutrition and food safety issues.

“Obesity isn’t the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you’re fat. We gradually and slowly gain weight over time,” she said.

So even if only some people are swayed to make slightly better choices, Wootan thinks there’s a big benefit to providing calorie information.

Another upside is that companies tend to work harder to provide healthier options when they’re forced to display calorie information.

“It can be embarrassing, or shocking, so they end up changing the way the product is made,” Wootan said.

Joe Finn, a sales manager from Oconomowoc, Wis., said he was surprised at the calorie information posted at a hamburger restaurant when he flew out to California earlier this year for the Rose Bowl.

“All the calories were up there, and I thought, well, I’m not going to order that,” said Finn, 51, who’s trying to watch what he eats. He ended up picking the most basic burger, without cheese. Back at home, he tries to stick to options where he knows the calorie information, such as Subway sandwiches.

“Otherwise you could be ordering a gut bomb,” he said.

The move by McDonald’s could spur other restaurant chains to move ahead of the federal regulation.

The Wendy’s Co. did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Representatives for Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Yum Brands Inc, which owns Taco Bell and KFC, said they’re waiting for further guidance from regulators before updating their menus.

McDonald’s is also testing healthier options for next year, such as an Egg McMuffin made with egg whites and a whole grain muffin. The sandwich has Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese and clocks in at 260 calories. It will be called the Egg White Delight.

The chain is also testing versions of the McWrap, which is a bigger version of its chicken Snack Wrap that is already sold in Europe. The wraps have sliced cucumbers and range from 350 calories to 580 calories.

The moves reflect the pressures McDonald’s and other fast-food chains are facing amid growing concerns about obesity.

A meal consisting of a Big Mac and medium fries, for example, has 920 calories. Add a 16-ounce Coca-Cola, and the count rises to 1,140 calories.

As for the company’s move earlier this year to automatically include apple slices in its Happy Meals, Sara Deon of Corporate Accountability said it amounted to a “PR scheme designed to drive traffic to stores to sell burgers and fries.”

McDonald’s also faces competition from chains such as Subway, which positions itself as a healthy alternative to traditional hamburger chains.

McDonald’s, which has 14,000 locations in the U.S., doesn’t plan to advertise the posting of the calorie information. Fields said it’s something the chain is doing as a “customer convenience.”

I wrote a few months ago about visiting California this summer where it is a state law that restaurants post calories. I absolutely LOVED having that information when I was ordering. It is shocking and absolutely affected my choices.

So what do think? Are you glad McDonald’s will be posting calories or you just don’t want to know? Why do you think McDonald’s is doing it voluntarily and ahead of the legislation? What did you think of their new menu items coming soon?

64 comments Add your comment

Jawga Boi

September 13th, 2012
3:36 pm

You are probably right MP. They likely would have to post a warning like the cigarette companies now do to deter people. WARNING- this food blocks your arteries, causes heart disease and is a major contributor to the obesity problem.

s.b

September 13th, 2012
3:36 pm

Most of us have been going to Mcdonalds for the majority of our lives, so we know what we are eating and we know that its not good for us. Its convenient. I dont think posting calories, which I think is a great idea, will stop us from eating there but will maybe change our mind about what to pick from.

mystery poster

September 13th, 2012
3:38 pm

@Jawga boi
I make smoothies with the following ingredients:
1c milk (dairy or almond)
1c plain yogurt
1 banana
1 c frozen fruit (no sugar added)

You can make a whole bunch and then freeze them. I usually buy the large size yogurt (3 cups) and make 3 batches (since the yogurt won’t get eaten plain). You’ll have to experiment with thawing, sometimes I will take a small one (10 oz) out of the freezer into the fridge at lunch and it’s thawed for my on-the-way-to-the-gym snack. For larger ones, take all day to thaw in fridge. If they haven’t completely thawed, eat them with a spoon like ice cream. Yum!

You can also add protein powder, but IMHO, it gives it a slightly chalky taste.

mystery poster

September 13th, 2012
3:41 pm

@Voice of Reason

Dear Vegetarians and Vegans, or whatever the hell you are calling yourselves now,

I rank you in the general hierarchy of socially acceptable behavior right about the same as I do the overly religious zealots of the world.

You both can all get on one spaceship and get the hell off my planet. YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE!

Doesn’t sound very reasonable to me. How exactly do my food choices affect you?

Jawga Boi

September 13th, 2012
3:41 pm

Okay, thanks MP. Do you use whole milk?

mystery poster

September 13th, 2012
3:41 pm

@Jawga
Usually 2%, but last time I used almond milk and strawberries for the fruit and it was fantastic!

Jawga Boi

September 13th, 2012
3:47 pm

I tried to make some a while back. I added ice. It was terrible and tasted sour.

Denise

September 13th, 2012
4:06 pm

s.b. – I agree. I think the nutritional information will just help you select what you will eat at McD or wherever you are going, not keep you from going if you have it in your mind to go.

I love Taco Bell (don’t judge me!) so I just have to figure out what is the best selection from the horrors that is Taco Bell’s menu. But mainly I just get what is good to me and then work around how many points I just consumed. Those Locos Tacos with the Doritos shell…. YUM! (I think I know what I’m having for dinner tonight after I leave the hair salon. LOL)

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 13th, 2012
4:48 pm

MJG — I think that’s Subway is so popular because they identify which subs are better for you!! and give you some, if not all the info.

Living Well

September 13th, 2012
4:53 pm

More than calories, I’d like to see total sodium, and total carbs. Also, how many calories/carbs in the english muffin with the Egg McMuffin? I only eat half of the muffin, so curious about how many calories I save from the 300 cal breakfast.

Dave

September 14th, 2012
12:16 am

Rather know.

FCM

September 14th, 2012
1:37 pm

McD on Sandy Plains in Sprayberry has the info up. It makes the drive thru ordering board look a MESS and hard to read

FCM

September 14th, 2012
1:37 pm

oh and we were at McDs b/c this board made me curious

Voice of Reason

September 18th, 2012
8:41 am

@mystery poster

Um, it effects me when you act like your food choice is somehow better than my own.

I think I made that abundantly clear.