Op-Ed

McDonald’s posting calorie counts on menus

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Justin Labelle

Fast food, the cornerstone of every twenty-something’s diet. Squeezed in right between Kraft Dinner and instant noodles, fast-food chains have found their way into most of our hearts—and hips. But with our waistlines expanding and obesity rates soaring, nowadays there is more concern than ever over what foods Canadians are consuming. Fast-food restaurants have taken notice and are adapting to be more health-conscious. With salads, smoothies, and fruit now offered on most of their menus, burger joints are attempting to attract more customers with healthy options instead of serving up a heart attack waiting to happen.

McDonald’s, arguably the world’s largest hamburger chain, is now not only promoting healthier options, but posting calorie counts on menus inside the store and at the drive-thru. With the change already implemented in New York City and Philadelphia, the golden arches will soon start advertising its nutrition information all over the U.S.

While what are called Food Facts brochures are available online and at every McDonald’s restaurant, both stateside and here in Canada, the company has decided to go ahead and let people know exactly how many calories they’re consuming.

But the real question is: how much will this affect our nation’s eating habits?

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

The sad part is that Fields is right. Posting calorie counts on drive-thru menus won’t eliminate late night junk food runs or Big Mac cravings. The only thing accomplished by this handholding and head patting is condescension.

Dayna Proud, a McDonald’s spokesperson in Illinois, once said, “Obesity isn’t the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you’re fat.”

Obesity and poor health are the results of a lack of daily exercise and proper diet. We all know that eating greasy fries, inhaling delicious burgers, and scarfing down mouth-watering desserts isn’t healthy. How can we forget the infamous documentary Supersize Me, in which Morgan Spurlock ate at the McDonald’s three times a day, gained a whopping 24 lbs in 30 days, and had his cholesterol levels rise faster than he could say “extra mayo please.”

The main reason behind McDonald’s USA’s decision to post calorie counts is likely due to the recent Supreme Court ruling that requires fast-food chains with more than 20 locations post nutrition information. While the time frame for this court decision is still being worked out, most restaurants will implement the change within the coming months.

We’re the reason we’re fat. It doesn’t take a dietitian to deduce that consuming medium fries, a Big Mac, and a soft drink will clock in at over a thousand calories. Sure, it’s fine to eat these foods once in a while, but we’re not. And the result is more than obvious. It’s staring right back at us when we look in the mirror.

And there’s another problem: our society is so consumed with how we look that we think the issue stops at calories. So we consume 300 empty calories of junk food because it’s a small amount, never mind that those calories have no nutritional value whatsoever. As usual, we’ve fallen victim to focusing on our outside. If we were focusing on our actual health, then every fast-food chain would tape warnings to burger boxes and soft drink cups, similar to what cigarette packages are required to do by law today.

This decision might have some positive consequences, sure, but it is not the be-all-end-all of nutritional considerations. If someone really wanted to know the calorie count of their meal, they’d look it up on the good old Internet. And if someone really wants to eat a McChicken, they’re gonna freaking eat it.