Last Wednesday I attended a McDonald’s First Taste Event at one of their New York City locations. At this event, I had the opportunity to learn more about their “Made Just for You” platform and taste McDonald’s newest menu items, including their Premium Chicken Sandwiches, the Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie, and the return of the Asian salad. Also in attendance was McDonald’s Executive Chef and Senior Director of Culinary Innovation, Chef Dan Coudreaut, McDonald’s Nutrition Manager, Julia Braun, MPH, RD and Founder and Principle for Hispanic Food Communications, Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, MS, RD, LDN.
The concept behind “Made Just for You” is to allow diners to customize their McDonald’s meals to their liking and dietary needs. By providing a variety of balanced options with quality ingredients and nutrition information, diners can make more informed choices when they visit McDonald’s and choose the components of their meal consciously. The people behind McDonald’s are working on introducing healthier foods, focusing on food groups and nutritional needs, and working with portion sizes.
The menu at McDonald’s have definitely been evolving over the years. Even though McDonald’s is known for their Big Mac and french fries, there’s more than just hamburgers and fries now. Now there’s also snack wraps, salads, smoothies, and more recently, the addition of the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, a breakfast choice available any time through the day. They’ve also incorporated whole grains in their new Premium chicken sandwiches by reformulating the bun. In addition, the Asian salad is back for a limited time this summer to join their line of Premium Salads.
The Asian Salad features a bed of greens, edamame and snow peas, red bell peppers, and sweet mandarin oranges, and sliced, toasted almonds. The salad is available with or without warm orange-glazed grilled or crispy chicken breast. Each Premium Salad contains about 3 cups of vegetables.
The Premium Chicken Sandwiches are made with a white meat chicken breast filet, grilled or crispy, and served on a bakery-style bun. Each sandwich delivers 8 grams of whole grain, which is about a 1/2 serving. There’s three varieties – the Classic, Chicken Club and Ranch BLT. Each sandwich is topped with leafy green lettuce and a slice of tomato. The Chicken Club and Ranch BLT include slices of hickory smoked bacon.
The Chicken McNuggets are made with white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter. They are cooked in a canola oil blend, which provides 0 grams of trans fat per labeled serving. The McNuggets are cooked so that its crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside.
And what kind of sauce would you like with that? Well, I found out that there are now eight dipping sauces available! Choose from Creamy Ranch, Tangy BBQ, Sweet ‘n Sour, Chipotle BBQ, Spicy Buffalo, Honey Mustard, Hot Mustard, and Sweet Chili.
Looking for a healthy side to accompany our meals, McDonald’s suggests the Apple Dippers (sliced apples with caramel dip) or the Fruit and Walnut Salad (apple slices, red grapes, candied walnuts, vanilla low-fat yogurt) or a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait (vanilla low-fat yogurt with berries and granola).
Joining the McCafe blended beverages is the Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, an icy beverage with tart frozen lemonade and a sweet strawberry syrup swirl. Probably the least healthy food item featured at the event, but summer is approaching and, I guess, lemonade is only appropriate.
There’s also the Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie which features a combination of sweet mangos and citrusy pineapples blended with low-fat yogurt, ice and a little bit of fruit juice concentrate. A small 12 oz serving contains about half a cup of fruit. The Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie will be available at McDonald’s this July.
I’m excited to see McDonald’s take initiative in promoting healthy and conscious eating by incorporating healthy options in their menu in addition to the classic hamburgers and fries. Now the next step is to inform so that diners know what is available and can make better choices with planning their meals at McDonald’s and also in general.
McDonald’s aims to provide easily accessible nutrition information to help their customers make more informed choices and although the information is available, I’m not too sure how much of this information the average customer is actually aware of.
- Nutrition information on all the menu choices, including ingredients and allergen information, can be found on the McDonald’s website. Nutrition tips and resources are available online too.
- Popular item packages have a FDA Nutrition Facts panel and a McDonald’s Nutrition Chart.
- Turn over the trayliner and there’s more nutrition facts and figures to read about.
- Brochures with can also be found in participating locations.
- Not to mention, there’s always a toll-free phone number to call (1-800-244-6227) if you have questions or want more information.
I also found out about HealthyDiningFinder.com. This online guide helps diners find dietitian-approved menu items at a number of restaurants, from fast food joints to fine dining. McDonald’s has 21 items featured there.
When they say the menu is “Made Just for You“, they do try their best to offer customization. Here’s are some more examples and tips that might not be that obvious to the average diner.
If you’re watching your sodium intake, you can
- request hamburgers without the grill seasoning, which contains a mix of salt and pepper
- ask for french fries without the added salt, or
- opt out the cheese on your sandwiches.
If you’re watching calories or fat, you can
- go for a low fat vinaigrette salad dressing instead of the creamy caesar salad dressing
- order apple dippers with low fat caramel dip instead of a small order of French Fries
- order a premium salad with grilled chicken instead of crispy chicken
- ask for a Filet-O-Fish sandwich without tartar sauce, or
- ask for a Big Mac sandwich without special sauce.
And here’s something that I was happy to find out. The Fruit and Maple Oatmeal can be made dairy-free! Fruit and Maple Oatmeal can be prepared without cream upon request. Brown sugar topping, also optional. This was news to me. Now the lactose-(extra)intolerant me can enjoy McDonald’s oatmeal again.
It was definitely a very informative event and there was more. I also had the opportunity to speak with Chef Dan Coudreaut (McDonald’s Executive Chef and Senior Director of Culinary Innovation), Julia Braun (McDonald’s Nutrition Manager) and Sylvia Melendez-Klinger (Founder and Principle for Hispanic Food Communications). I had a great time chatting with them and hearing about their roles, responsibilities, and thoughts on nutrition.
Over the next weeks, I will be sharing my interviews with Chef Dan, Julia, and Sylvia, as well as, my comments on the food items I sampled. There will also be McDonald’s gift bag giveaways, so stay tuned.