Even McDonald’s can be healthy!

Jul 30, 2010

Healthy eating at McDonald’s is not an oxymoron, says the registered dietitian who oversees nutrition at the company’s 14,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States.

Cindy Goody, U.S. director of nutrition for McDonald’s, concedes nutrition used to be “a dirty word” at McDonald’s, but now the chain is seeking to be a leader in nutrition in the fast-food restaurant industry.

Goody told Viterbo University dietetic students earlier this month that McDonald’s offers a wide range of balanced choices, which include more healthy options than ever before. McDonald’s has focused more on fruit — 100 percent fruit juice, apple dippers, fruit yogurt parfait and a fruit and walnut salad — along with salads and snack wraps. McDonald’s has reduced the number of calories in kids’ meals by almost one-half. The chain is testing a fruit and apple oatmeal that has 280 calories, and is low in fat and sodium.

Although restaurants have not been required to analyze their food, McDonald’s has provided nutrition information in some form for 35 years. The chain offers nutrition information in brochures, on the package and on the back of tray mats.

Like other restaurant chains with more than 20 locations, McDonald’s must post calorie and nutrition information on menu boards in the next few years as required by rules in the recently passed federal health care law.

In addition to infusing more healthy food, McDonalds is seeking a healthy environment. McDonald’s extensive food safety program selects quality suppliers, implements good manufacturing practices and food tracking. Each restaurant goes through 72 food safety checks each day, she said.

Then there comes McDonald’s ethics and the company’s belief in strong labor laws. Recently, one potential supplier was rejected by McDonald’s because it hired children to pick fruit.

And with McD’s entry into the coffee market in a big way here is a fact most don’t know — McDonald’s serves “fair trade” coffee from Central America and South America.