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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why adding salad is futile

Whenever I am woken by the telephone at 6am usually it is the radio calling for an early morning interview, inevitably because one of the fast food chains has promoted a new initiative and yesterday it was McDonalds starting to offer salad as well as fries when you order a burger.

There are so many things that run through my dietitian’s brain as I contemplate this to decide if it is indeed a good idea. Surely any promotion or initiative that encourages the consumption of more salad and / or vegetables is a good thing, ultimately giving consumers the option to make a healthier choice should they want to? Hmmmm, maybe but offering one small good thing as part of a much bigger bad thing ie eating a fast food meal, does not make the fast food meal any better. In fact, it could actually make people feel better about eating the fast food meal, which is not a good thing.

Then, while having the option available to choose salad instead of fries may result in some people ditching the fries in favour of salad, I would be more inclined to think that the majority of people who are going to a fast food chain are not looking to swap their order of fries for a salad. If in real terms this means that McDonalds sell 1 salad for every 50 serves of fries, it would suggest that such a tactic from McDonalds is merely ticking a box of ‘looking like” they are trying to do go by the health of all Australians as opposed to actually doing any good at all – there is a big difference.

And then we have the issue of quality. If you have seen a healthy choice at a fast food chain recently, you may have noticed they do not tend to be the most desirable looking menu options. A minuscule serve of soggy lettuce and chopped tomato costing more than $3 hardly appetizing compared to sizzling meat patties, melt in your mouth burger buns, sugar twists of fat known as a McFlurry and the far more affordable $2 lunch deals. I am a dietitian and I would not pay the money for the salads that are served in McDonalds.

So while another marketing executive is likely to be patting themselves on the back this afternoon as McDonalds has again grabbed the headlines with its “salad offering”, here are some things to consider next time they really want to grab a health headline properly. McDonalds sell 1 million meals a day in Australia. All that would be needed to improve the nutritional quality of the current McDonalds menu items and indirectly the health of all Australians would be to add more salad to all the burgers on the current menu, improve the quality of the bread the burgers are served on and for the fifteen year old servers to stop asking everyone to upsize their order and buy more the high fat, high carbohydrate foods they do not need. It is not rocket science McDonalds and you are also likely to save a whole lot of salad that no one is going to eat in the process.