McDonald’s displaying calorie counts? Bring it on

by , Senior Food Researcher Consumer Rights 19 March 2011
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McDonald’s and other food chains have bowed to pressure to list the calorie content of their food in store. But will this information actually work in giving you a nudge to choose a different, ‘healthier’ option?

McDonalds restaurant at night

As we revealed a few days ago, McDonald’s has signed up to the government’s ‘Responsibility Deal‘ to put calorie counts in its restaurants.

This means that when you visit McDonald’s you’ll be able to see how many calories your Big Mac and medium fries contains (820 calories in case you’re wondering).

Would this convince you to swap to a Double cheeseburger (50 calories less than a Big Mac)? Or how about choosing small fries to save a further 100 calories?

Not all chains have signed up

McDonald’s isn’t the only one, lots of restaurants have signed up to this particular pledge, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Yo! Sushi. And Pret a Manger already lists calories with its food.

Surprisingly, Burger King and Starbucks aren’t on the list, despite having this information on their websites. Why not display it at the point of sale as well?

I’m not the food police and I know not everyone will use the information, but surely that’s up to us as individuals? If we want to take note of calories then it should be there for us to see, and if we don’t then we can choose to ignore it.

Personally, I think calorie labelling is a fantastic idea, but then I’m a nutritionist so that’s probably a given. I love going into my local Pret and being able to know how many calories my lunch contains (and potentially work out how long I’m going to have to spend at the gym working off that chocolate cake!)

Calorie counts aren’t easy to guess

It’s not always straightforward working out which is the lowest calorie option. I would think that a McDonald’s Sweet Chilli Chicken Deli was a lower calorie option than the McChicken sandwich – it’s not. The deli has 570 calories compared to the McChicken sandwich’s 385 – a difference of almost 200 calories.

And even if I then went ahead and had the deli option, knowing its calorie content might encourage me to have a piece of fruit in the afternoon instead of reaching for a Kit-Kat.

It’s not about never eating at McDonald’s, Pret or any of the other chains. It’s about allowing us to make informed choices when we do, especially as most of us now eat one of our meals outside the home each day. And if we want to choose a healthier option, we can – even if it’s a simple swap from a regular coke to a diet one (saving 170 calories).

Well done to the organisations who have signed up so far. To those who haven’t, come on, let us be the ones to decide whether to use calorie information or not.

14 comments

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wavechange

That makes a lot more sense than making nutritional information available on websites. Maybe make a Big Mac smaller too.

Next on the list, I would like all sandwiches labelled with calorie and fat content, which might discourage the makers from including mayonnaise in fillings.

Yes, I dislike mayonnaise with a passion. Trying to find a sandwich without is more difficult than it sounds. Though it’s likely they’d just replace it with low-fat mayo.

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Phil

“I dislike mayonnaise with a passion. Trying to find a sandwich without is more difficult than it sounds.”

Try Morrisons, I’ve yet to find anything more than trace amounts in any of their sandwiches.

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wavechange

Thanks. Unfortunately Morrisons is miles away from where I live, but I will bear this in mind for when I’m away from home.

Apologies to Shefalee for taking this Conversation off topic, unless McDonalds etc sell sandwiches.

Thanks Phil. EAT points out in red letters which of its sandwiches do not have mayonnaise. However, they like to add it to the oddest sandwiches – brie, ham and cranberry sauce with… mayonnaise. What need is there for two sauces?

In the past I have also had the same problem with burgers from McDonalds and Burger King, leaving my choice only to a Quarter Pounder and Cheese, since this comes with a tomato sauce. I have, however, not eaten from one of these burger chains for a good five years. Perhaps this influx of mayo needs its own Conversation…

As far as calorie counts in these chains, like Shefalee I do think it’s a good idea. I am, though, surprised at how low some of the calorie counts are. Perhaps people will now think ‘oh, I can get away with 300 calories?’ However, the calorie count is only one small part, with fat (especially trans fat) being pivotal to how healthy these foods are. I doubt that this type of information will make it into these chains, like it has on supermarket food. Do you think that there needs to be more than just calorie counts listed in food chains?

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wavechange

Food chains should provide the same nutritional information as supermarkets. Fat, sugar and sodium content are particularly important. It would probably be difficult for smaller organisations to provide accurate information because of variations in ingredients and portion size. If the larger operators do provide information then we will be better informed about what is in our food.

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who hates mayonnaise.

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John H

As a diabetic I would like to see carbohydrate content treated as the next priority for discposure

Thanks for your comments, I also have a bugbear with mayonnaise and how often it appears in sandwiches.
I agree that it would be ideal to see more information in store especially in regards to fat and salt content but calorie labelling is definitely a step in the right direction. If we as consumers can show that we want this extra information it might encourage the restaurants to start giving it to us.
Once calorie labelling is up and running surely it can’t be that much more work for them to give us the rest?

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wavechange

Perhaps we need a Conversation about mayonnaise, as Patrick suggested. Its only use seems to be to help keep the filling in sandwiches. Most of us should be eating less fat. I would rather have my quota of fat in the form of chocolate and cheese (not necessarily together) than in disgusting white grease.

Pubs usually have sachets of mayo with the salt, pepper, sauces, etc, and that’s where it belongs. Anyone who likes the stuff can add as much as they like to their burgers and sandwiches. They can even have my share.

I’ll get onto it wavechange for the other end of this week, so as to not take this Conversation off course any more! Thanks.

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Bev Allen

I`m really not surprised that the food outlets mentioned are not committed to a scheme that informs consumers of the calorific content of their food. They are fully aware of how high some items are and know that seeing it in black and white will definitely put some people off buying it.

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Clive

Calorie counting was proved to be complete bunkum 50 years ago and yet the media and medical profession still send out this misinformation! Calories in food are irrelevant! I could eat 5 lbs of steak for breakfast, 2 dozen eggs (fried) for lunch and 10 lbs of chicken for dinner; thousands of calories but not put on one ounce of fat! get real, get proper information and stop publishing this garbage!

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Susan

As a person who has Type 1 diabetes, it would be exceptionally helpful if Restaurants would include the carbohydrate amount of their foods per portion. This is more important to people with insulin dependent diabetes as many of us have to calculate how much insulin to take per meal according to the carbohydrate content of the chosen dish.
McDonalds already do this-not that I dine there!

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clive

When are you bozos going to wake up to the fact that counting calories is a joke?! The two scientists Newburg and Johnson who came up with the theory wanted to withdraw it a year later because it was fatally flawed! Sadly, by then a whole industry had been founded based on this untested and unresearched theory. If anyone responds with the phrases “Research shows” or “Tests prove” they will only be showing that they are clueless because no real tests or research have been done! Read “Eat yourself slim” by Michel Montignac; he blwos all the myths away. My friend Richard lost two and a half stone in two years. He drinks a bottle of red wine each day; two on Saturday and he eats more than seven pigs! However, he never eayts bread, potatoes or sugar. I doubt if thsi comment will be published or the likes of Which will need to actly do some research! The reason counting calories is a waste of time is because at first one will lose weight but then the body goes into survival mode and stores what you’re eating as fat and hence there are thousands of fat people literally starving themsleves to death. Have you ever seen any of the “Slimmers of the year” two or three years later? They all put back on the five stones they lose with another couple in interest! Slimming organisations don’t people to lose all the weight they should; just a little so that when the member leaves and puts the fat back on they will re join! If counting calories and not eating fat were the answers France would be full of people each weighing 60 stone! Why is no research done to find out why obesity is rare in Gascony as it heart desease when the diet is very high fat? According to the makers of Maltesers one can eat six bags each dayu and lose weight! Hopw ridiculous is that! Nothing wrong with the hamburgers at MacDonalds if ytou don’t eat the bun and the chips!

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