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Junk Food Cures for Obesity?

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The National Post had a great article yesterday about healthy food options at McDonalds, interviewing Anne Parks who is director for menu management for McDonalds Canada.


Anne Parks is pretty much a healthy food person: she raises bees and has a big veggie garden. And: she eats at McDonalds twice a day. Choosing carefully what she's prepared to eat herself.

One of the most interesting things about the article? She thinks that many people, especially women, are looking for the healthy options when they go to McDonalds . . . . but when they get there, tend to order their faves.

I think that's right. There used to be a person working in our office who drove to the McD's drive through several times a week, always with a view to getting a salad -- and almost inevitably bought the quarter pounder. With biggie fries. AND a biggie soft drink.

Something else I didn't know: there's a McDonald's app which can help you decide how to customize your order, shaving off fat and calories. Small decisions, big results over time.

So: McDonald's is doing its part, right? But not with a huge expectation its customers will do theirs. And with a clear understanding that if it doesn't taste delicious, it's not going to sell.

(Remember the short-lived McLean burger? Did anyone else ever buy one?)

Can "junk food cures" be effective in the obesity battle? If the tools are available, are we disciplined enough to use 'em?


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
JOHAL52 8/6/2013 8:58AM

    I had a McDonalds burger a couple of weeks ago--the kid's size one. I had asked for no cheese but when I was home there was that rubbery awful cheese. The meal tasted so terrible (including the fries) that I promised myself I would remember that taste the next time dd suggested eating there. Add that to their human resources practices and if it were my choice I would never eat at McDonalds again.

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NANCY- 8/5/2013 8:31AM

    I agree with DDOORN. Basically we have been conditioned to have expectations of burgers and fries, not salads. Breaking that conditioning is difficult and the taste of the healthier choices may still be a bit wanting. And when ordering the memories, smells beckon. We want to relive that so unless we have great resolve, we cave.
Most fast food restaurants so called "bread and butter" still are the cheap non-nutrient eats. They are happy when fries are ordered with that salad.

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KALIGIRL 8/5/2013 8:29AM

    Interesting - @ least we can give them credit for 'following' the healthy food wave?

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_LINDA 8/5/2013 3:08AM

    I never go there personally, but was forced to on a road trip last year with my brother because that was the only place he would eat at. I did love their spicy Thai chicken salad, it was quite tasty. Sometimes I would have the chicken wrap. Was grateful for the fruit smoothies for a drink. I don't yearn for a burger at all, don't know how I ever ate them -think it was because it was smothered in dressing and it covered the taste -the Big Mac was my favorite. I couldn't get enough of their fries when I used to go, but I resisted.
I think you will always crave your favorites -the smell would trigger a reaction and wanting. Its why aromatherapy is so popular -a small scent can trigger a big response.
Thanks for the link!

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JIBBIE49 8/5/2013 2:26AM


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PHOENIX1949 8/5/2013 1:32AM

    For me, the smell & sight of the fries wold be too tempting!

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JUDI_CUTIE 8/4/2013 11:30PM

    Dunkin Donuts has a couple of good egg white sandwiches. I like to get that when I'm in the mood for fast food. I can handle the drive thru, but if I walked in ... I can't say I would leave without donuts!

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MEADSBAY 8/4/2013 10:16PM

    I haven't eaten willingly at McD's in 30-40 yrs but the few times when it was that or nothing, I tried the salads (iceberg/disgusting) and the wraps (about 1oz of actual chicken).
The ice cream cone (150 calories) is good in a food emergency
and the coffee is passable and cheap.
I can't believe people eat, never mind crave, that crap!

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CARRAND 8/4/2013 10:09PM

    I don't eat there because I am gluten intolerant, and most of their offerings contain gluten. A quarter pound burger without the bun is awful. Most of their salads contain gluten, too, in one way or another. There is gluten on their fries, too.

I do enjoy their decaf coffee, but that's about it.

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DDOORN 8/4/2013 8:52PM

    McDonald's is trying mightily to re-brand itself as they long for our consumer dollars.

But after decades of burgers & fries, anyone going there is going to have that on their minds and choosing a salad instead is going to feel less than satisfying to those taste buds primed for high fat, high carb foods. So the experience isn't likely to be sufficiently reinforcing enough to embed psychological prompts ("ooh a McDonald's salad, now THAT would go down SO GOOD right now!") for return visits & extra dollars spent.

More work needs to be done at the meta level to shape our collective psyches so that plants become drool-worthy to a majority of the public. Advertising shapes our preferences all the time. I think such an endeavor would be $$$ well spent by our government by investing in the health and well being of all.


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PURPOSEPOWER95 8/4/2013 7:47PM

    I avoid it like the plague. I have no desire for there food.

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SALSIFY 8/4/2013 7:45PM

    I go to mcDonalds maybe 2 or 3 times a year - usually nagged by my son. They do a grilled chicken salad which is OK & low calorie.

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PHEBESS 8/4/2013 6:56PM

    Most of McDonald's food is yuck (in my opinion) but I do like the McCafe. And I appreciate that here in Australia (and in NZ) they list the calories - stops me from "splurging" on a muffin or even their toast for brekkie, because their caloric content is higher than I'm willing to go.

But one item - I don't know if McDonald's North America has the chicken sweet chili wrap yet - it is delicious, and one of the few items I'll eat at McDonald's. I always ask for no mayo, and grilled chicken (not fried). Comes in a wrap full of lettuce and cukes, and sweet chili sauce - yummy for about 300 calories that way.

But several times, they've given it to me with fried chicken. And I go up to the counter and insist they change it - because I ordered grilled for a reason.

I guess I'm lucky - I'm not crazy about burgers, I hate their fries, their fish sandwich is horrid - I stumbled on the chicken chili wrap by accident one day (because McDonald's has free wifi, and DH loves their burgers and fries).

My big treat there? The small cone of soft serve ice cream, for 30 cents, and 125-150 calories. Or the McCafe skinny latte.

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PONYFARMER 8/4/2013 6:45PM

    I lost 13 pounds when I first joined SP and my first new act was to give up McDonalds. In one month, I lost 13 pounds and no I was not making good decisions at all, but I also go for inexpensive and so I just quit cold turkey. Sometimes it is best to cut bait and move on, at least it was for me. Great blog!

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KANOE10 8/4/2013 6:07PM

    I think it is great that McDonald's is at least trying to offer healthier options and has an app to help you; The wealthy junk food industry has the resources and money to develop healthy good tasting foods..that even junk food people might like. As was commented in the other article: Can Junk Food Cure Obesity?, the mass of the obese people do not go to healthy restaurants or stores. They go to junk food drive ins.
I heard that the McCleans tasted awful.

I am not sure people will be disciplined enough to stay away from their favorites, but offering healthier foods in these places is a start. Someone might actually order a salad!

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POINDEXTRA 8/4/2013 6:03PM

    I lost over 50 pounds eat a lot of fast food, but it did require choosing carefully. Now would McD PLEASE bring back the Asian chicken salad? I eat a lot less fast food now, but I make much use of restaurant's nutrition calculators.

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DESERTJULZ 8/4/2013 5:57PM

    What most people would consider a "healthy" choice at McDonald's would still fall into a category of "poor choice" to me. I do not believe it will actually help people; all it does is allow McD to "claim" they offer healthy choices.

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TRAVELGRRL 8/4/2013 5:56PM

    I recently read an article about a study that found that having the calorie count posted on menu boards did NOTHING to change what people ordered, whether they were obese or not.

So I'm thinking the healthy options don't mean squat in the big picture.

And YES, I ordered the McLean burger and was heartbroken when they discontinued it. I actually thought it was delish!! emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/4/2013 5:54PM

    As to whether people will use the options given? Depends on the person. Some will, some won't. But from a McD's marketing point of view, it means that if you have a healthy eater involved in deciding where to eat, they may not immediately cross this chain off their list.

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BOOKAPHILE 8/4/2013 5:49PM

    Probably not. I usually have to stay away or resign myself to one meal as an aberration from my normal eating.

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DALID414 8/4/2013 5:49PM

    When I restarted Sparking I would go thru drive thrus for the boyfriend or my sister and at the end of every order I'd inevitably tack on my order even after saying I wasn't going to get anything. emoticon Solution? I stopped going thru drive thrus

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COCK-ROBIN 8/4/2013 5:40PM


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