Nutrition Victory: McDonald’s Adding Calories to Menu Boards

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McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has decided to allow consumers to make more healthy decisions, or at least less unhealthy decisions. The company announced today that McDonald’s USA will start as soon as this next week listing calorie information on the restaurant menu boards in the stores and in the drive-thru areas.

The company said:

In addition to menu board labeling, McDonald’s published its first-ever nutrition progress report and revealed several 2013 menu innovations in test that will include recommended food groups from the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reflected in the messages supporting MyPlate.

This past summer, McDonald’s introduced a “Favorites Under 400″ menu that shows the calorie information for some of customers’ favorite foods and beverages. McDonald’s also said that about 750,000 employees at McDonald’s and its franchise stores will be introduced to a voluntary nutrition e-learning program.

If you have been to New York in recent years you may have noticed calories listed on the menu. Some argue that this does not influence customer behavior, but others do believe that it can.

McDonald’s cited the International Food Information Council Foundation saying that about 15% of Americans accurately estimate the number of calories they need to maintain their weight.

McDonald’s has taken a lot of heat for its food, but McDonald’s is not the worst offender out there in the fast-food calorie, fat and sodium counts. In 2011 we formed our own list of the most unhealthy fast-food items from major chains and McDonald’s only held one of the 10 worst for consumers.

We would note that if McDonald’s is going to start this trend, then others may take this step nationally as well. It might even get Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) to stop advertising its Taco Bell “fourth meal,” which is directly aimed at the late-night partying crowd. Others like The Wendy’s Company (NASDAQ: WEN), Jack in the Box Inc. (NASDAQ: JACK) and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW) may take up nationwide efforts down the road too.

Here are just a few items from the nutrition facts under the popular McDonald’s food items straight from the company’s own website:

  • Angus Bacon & Cheese: 790 calories, 350 calories from fat, 2070 mg sodium
  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese: 750 calories, 380 calories from fat, 1360 mg sodium
  • Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (5 pc): 640 calories, 340 calories from fat, 1240 mg sodium
  • Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich: 620 calories, 260 calories from fat, 1200 mg sodium

Here are a couple of items from the breakfast menu:

  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (regular size biscuit): 1090 calories, 510 calories from fat, 2150 mg sodium
  • Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles: 560 calories, 290 calories from fat, 1360 mg sodium

There is a lot more to health than just calorie counting, but here are a few caloric details from the LiveStrong website on what is the recommended caloric intake per day:

FOR MEN: A healthy man between the ages of 19 and 30 should consume anywhere from 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. After the age of 30, your calorie needs may diminish slightly so the range falls to 2,200 to 3,000 a day. Men over the age of 51 may get 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day.

FOR WOMEN: Women require fewer calories than men, based on Institute of Medicine recommendations. Women between the ages of 19 and 30 should aim for 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day, depending on activity levels. The calorie range for women between 31 and 50 is 1,800 and 2,200 a day. After the age of 51 women should consume between 1,600 and 2,200 calories.

FOR TEENAGERS: Getting the right amount of calories each day to support activity and health is imperative for adolescents. Teenage boys between the ages of 14 to 18 should get between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. Teenage girls in the same age range should get 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

FOR CHILDREN: Girls and boys between the ages of 2 and 3 need 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day, depending on activity levels. Girls between the ages of 4 and 8 should get 1,200 to 1,800 a day, while boys should get 1,200 to 2,000 per day. Girls ages 9 to 13 should get 1,400 to 2,200 calories a day and boys in that age range should consume 1,600 to 2,600 depending on activity level.

This may or may not end up being good for McDonald’s and its bottom-line. It certainly is a good start for Joe Public.

JON C. OGG

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