/ Food & Drink

McDonald’s displaying calorie counts? Bring it on

McDonalds restaurant at night

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?

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.

Comments
Member

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.

Member

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.

Member
Phil says:
19 March 2011

“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.

Member

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.

Member

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?

Member

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.

Member

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

Member

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?

Member