When the senior director of culinary innovation for McDonald's USA reportedly told an Akron Beacon Journal reporter that he can't see anything unhealthy on the McDonald's menu, he must have either been joking or in some kind of incomprehensible state of denial about the fast food menu that he seemingly presides over. It is shocking to hear such a statement being made by a McDonald's (MCD) senior team member. Consumers are all pretty well aware that McDonald's serves salty, fatty, sugary foods. We just didn't think the McDonald's leaders were in denial about it.
What is it that McDonald's Chef Daniel Coudreaut can't see? It doesn't take too long clicking through the nutritional section of the McDonald's website to identify the McDonald's menu items that are the worst for fat calories, sodium content and super sized portions of sugar. When customers drive into a McDonald's parking lot they see cheap, they see fast, they see easy and they see indulgence. But they also see many more unhealthy foods than healthy options and they know it, whether they want to admit it or not. I can't imagine what Chef Coudreaut sees.
The Sodium Content of McDonald's Food - Healthy or Unhealthy?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily salt intake for the average adult under the age of 51 is 2300 mg. For the average adult over the age of 51, that recommended salt intake drops to 1500 mg. The amount of salt a child should consume depends on their age and weight, but as a point of comparison, we'll choose the 1500 mg recommended for the average 9 - 13 year old.
Seven single items on the McDonald's menu contain 50% or more of the sodium that is recommended for an entire day. A stunning 35 menu items have 50% or more of the sodium that is recommended for adults over the age of 51 and children age 9-13. Four McDonald's foods contain more sodium than a child or an adult over the age of 51 should consume in an entire day. And if any of these individual worst salty McDonald's menu items are combined with, say, an order of french fries, and a soft drink, the sodium consumption shoots even higher.
Why should Chef Coudreaut see high sodium content in McDonald's food as "unhealthy?" According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming too much salt can put you at risk for hypertension, stroke, stomach cancer, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. When I look at these facts, I see 35 McDonald's menu items that are unhealthy for children, baby boomers and senior citizens. What does the chef see?
The Fat Calories in McDonald's Food - Healthy or Unhealthy?
The Mayo Clinic tells us that fat calories should be 20% - 35% of total calories for the day. According to the calculation on the McDonald's website, the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes will be happy to provide you with 87% of the recommended fat calories that you should consume for an entire day in your first meal of the day. Bah-dum-bum-bum-bah! But that may not be a fair example because how many millions of people have eaten that breakfast often enough to convince Chef Coudreaut to keep it on the menu?
Instead let's look at, say, the classic quarter pounder with cheese, which will give you 65% of your daily fat calories (along with 57% of your of your daily sodium). We can't really hold Chef Coudreaut accountable for this particular classic McDonald's salty fatburger since it was first sold in a McDonald's restaurant in 1971, when obesity wasn't at epidemic levels and nutrition was a much more casual conversation.
But how can Chef Coudreaut not see "unhealthy" when he looks at the Angus Mushroom and Swiss Burger that was introduced onto the McDonald's menu in 2009 under his supervision? It contains 61% of the fat and 49% of the sodium that an average person needs to consume in a day. I think it is a mastery level of creative visualization if Chef Coudreaut can look at that burger and see "health."
The Sugar Content of McDonald's Food - Healthy or Unhealthy?
The Mayo clinic tells us that 25g is the total amount of sugar that a women should consume, and 37.5g is the recommended daily sugar to be consumed by men. One "healthy" fruit and yogurt parfait has 23g of sugar, which will take care of 89% of the recommended sugar intake for the average woman for an entire day. And that's the healthy choice.
One of McDonald's new coffee concoctions designed to compete with Starbucks, the McCafe Caramel Mocha, has 31g of sugar, which is 124% of an adult woman's recommended daily intake, and 82% of the sugar the average man should consume in an entire day. Some would correctly argue that a Starbucks mocha concoction is no healthier than the McDonald's McCafe and, given the same ingredients, that argument would be correct. But Starbucks menu makers aren't making unsubstantiated health statements about their menu items to the press. They know, and we know, that most trips to Starbucks are about indulgence, not health. Nobody is trying to make the average Starbucks addiction seem to be healthier than it is.
The Banana Blueberry Oatmeal that Chef Coudreaut was supposed to be promoting in his interview with the Akron reporter has 21g of sugar, which will take care of the 84% of a woman's and 56% of a man's healthy intake in one small breakfast item that would probably leave you hungry again before lunch time. There are 30 single McDonald's menu items that can help you exceed your recommended sugar intake for the entire day when you consume them. According to the Mayo Clinic, each of those 30 items, with their excessive sugar, is moving you one step closer to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and possibly a long list of other things like, say, cancer.
When looking at the list of Top Ten Worst McDonald's Foods for Salt and Top Ten Worst McDonald's Foods for Fat, it seems that about half of the items on those "worst" lists were added to the menu since Chef Coudreaut assumed his senior menu maker position for the US chain. So here's what I think the morale of the story is about Chef Coudreaut. If either nutrition or public relations are part of his official job responsibilities, then the McDonald's leaders need to seriously consider getting him some additional training.
We could continue to show Chef Coudreaut the carb imbalance, the disproportionate number of calories, and the lack of fiber and fresh ingredients in the McDonald's menu, but we won't. Because what's the point? We already see what Chef Coudreaut claims not to see.
We don't eat at McDonald's because it's healthy. We eat McDonald's food because it's indulgent, addictive, and it tastes good, especially when drenched in many packets of high fructose ketchup. Nowhere in the McDonald's corporate mission statement does it say anything about health. Nowhere in the most quotable quotes from Ray Kroc does he say anything about health.
So, just be who you are without denying it, Chef Coudreaut. And when the demand dies down for the cheap, low-nutrition menu items that McDonald's offers today, that's when you can be something else. One small bit of advice from those of us in consumerville... You might want to study up a bit about, say, "healthy" foods before that time comes.