McDonald’s recently launched its “Favorites Under 400” campaign, advertising menu items that are 400 calories or less.
Although I am happy to see a fast-food chain jumping on the nutritious food bandwagon, I think its approach is halfhearted.
The items on its “Favorites Under 400″ menu include the Filet-O-Fish, French fries and a Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich (that you can see the mayo dripping off).
According to this article from The Chicago Tribune, the campaign was timed to roll out at the same time as the 2012 London Olympics:
“We’ve been looking at new ways we can provide easy-to-find and easy-to-understand, simple nutrition information,” said Neil Golden, McDonald’s USA chief marketing officer. “We’re always looking to evolve.”
Boards will be organized by calorie counts, segmenting items in calorie blocks. That means, for example, that under the heading 400 calories or less, consumers will see such items as medium fries, Filet-O-Fish sandwich and an Oreo McFlurry. For 300 calories or less, consumers can order a Southwest Salad or Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothie.
“We want customers to understand that they have food that they love, but food that they can feel good about enjoying regularly,” Golden said.
Food that they can feel good about enjoying regularly? I’m not a dietitian, but — You know what else is under 400 calories?
A Snickers bar: 280 calories
My favorite Dunkin Donuts treat — the blueberry cake doughnut: 340 calories
Nine pieces of bacon:369 calories
None of these things are particularly healthy — but they’re under 400 calories. (As an aside, bacon in moderation can be your friend).
Call me harsh, but I have little patience for this type of marketing. I won’t pretend it’s easy to find a healthy meal when you’re in a hurry.
Here are a few suggestions for living life on the go:
- Ask yourself if you’re near a grocery store. Fruit and vegetables are generally easy to transport, and you can get in and out of the grocery store pretty quickly. Especially during summer, you can find berries on sale, and they usually come in plastic containers that make them easy to transport. If you can’t find an affordable berry, try an apple or banana. One apple or banana will generally be less than $1.
- Skip the fries. Yes, a version of McDonald’s fries is less than 400 calories. And I won’t pretend they’re not delicious. But a side salad is going to make your body happier. When you get a salad, check the nutrition facts on the salad dressing. It could be loaded with calories and fat and end up defeating the purpose of getting a salad. Instead of pouring the dressing, try simply dipping your fork in the dressing. It will be good. Promise.
- Ziplock bags and plastic containers are your friends. These are generally inexpensive at the grocery store and make it easy to transport food when you’re in a hurry. On a Sunday, try to plan out your week. Ask yourself if there’s a time when you might find yourself in your car and hungry. Try to plan for that.
- Let’s say you and your family are hungry, and you’re low on cash. It’s time to ask the Internet. Go to your favorite search engine, and search for something like “Healthy and cheap meals.” You’ll find a wealth of information. There are several blogs and websites dedicated to providing healthy and inexpensive food ideas. Here are a few:
- 65 Cheap, Healthy, One-Dish Meals with Good Leftover Potential
- Cheap Eats – Eating Well
- 20 Cheap Heart-Healthy Dinner Ideas Under $3
Feel free to share your ideas on how to eat healthy and cheap. I am always looking for a good recipe and ways to avoid falling into the “I’m starving and surrounded by fast food restaurants” trap.