Interview • Representative says new menu options are part of the fast-food chain's endeavor to achieve variety and balance.
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It sounds like the set-up to a joke: The director of nutrition for McDonald's came to town.
Wait. The fast-food giant the same place lambasted in the documentary "Super Size Me" for encouraging poor nutrition has one of those?
It does, and Cindy Goody was in Utah last week to speak at the Utah Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Meeting.
Goody, who is responsible for providing accurate and timely nutrition information to McDonald's customers, also stopped by The Tribune to promote the McWrap. These portable meals contain chicken and greens and are one of the new menu items meant to appeal to the health conscious.
Goody also answered questions about nutrition and fast food. (Questions and answers have been edited for space.)
People don't eat at McDonald's for the nutrition. What do you do?
We're making nutrition more mainstream at McDonald's today. In the past couple of years we've launched fruit and maple oatmeal, [and] blueberry banana nut oatmeal. Premium chicken sandwiches have buns made with 8 grams of whole grains. With the launch of the new Happy Meal [last year, it] automatically includes a smaller-sized kid fries [reducing calories from 230 to 100] and automatic inclusion of apples … and we reformulated our 1 percent chocolate milk to now fat-free chocolate milk. All of that came from careful listening to moms in particular and recognizing people are becoming more mindful about what they're putting in their mouth.
Adding healthy options may make people feel better about eating at McDonald's, but those "healthy" options could still have a lot of sugar, sodium and fat. Can you really make processed foods healthy?
Yes, absolutely. In April we're going to be launching a new breakfast sandwich, the Egg White Delight. It has 250 calories [compared to 300 calories in the Egg McMuffin]. It's 100 percent egg white. It's freshly prepared on the griddle top and served on an English muffin made with 8 grams of whole grains. That will be the new standard for the Egg White Delight sandwich as well as the Egg McMuffin.
What about the Big Mac and fries, can you make those healthier?
If you eat too much of any one thing it's not going to be healthy so we're striving for variety and balance here. We're in 120 countries. Other parts of the world have transitioned or offered a whole grain Big Mac bun for their customers because that's what their customers were asking for. [U.S] customers are not asking for their Big Mac to be on a whole grain bun.
Eating fast food is linked to obesity. As a dietitian, how do you help fix that problem?
We are committed to expanding and improving our nutritionally balanced menu of choices. We've committed to [an average] reduction of 15 percent by 2015 in sodium. We've reduced sodium by 11 percent already. We're also working on decreasing the amount of calories, saturated fat and added sugars across our national menu of food choices and we'll be quantifying [the goal] later this year.
There are a lot of factors that affect obesity. It's not where you eat but what and how much you choose to eat. … So we've taken a leadership position in posting calories on our menu boards [starting last September].
A place where we're striving to provide even more nutrition information is helping people understand how they can customize when they visit our restaurants. If you don't prefer tartar sauce on fillet of fish, you save yourself 90 calories.
How often do you eat at Mcdonald's and what do you choose?
I'm a mom of a 2-year old and I gained the prerequisite 30 pounds and I was able to lose all that baby weight. I don't have a fast metabolism and I eat at McDonald's once or twice a day. Really. Plus I work out the recommended 5 hours a week. I may eat an Egg McMuffin and apples. My new thing is to have either a hamburger or a double hamburger, no cheese, two bags of apple slices and an oatmeal cookie and still keeping it under 600 calories.
Do you let your child eat a Happy Meal?
We've started bites of a Happy Meal. She enjoys McNuggets, hamburger, small bites of fries, apples, fat-free chocolate milk. All foods fit ... in the context of a daily diet when consumed in appropriate amounts.
What other changes will be made to make the Happy Meal healthier? How will you change marketing to children?
We're looking at ways to crack the code on offering vegetables to kids. Kids love carrots, we've not quite figured out how to offer them in a way that they'll be enjoyed regularly. We are committed [starting last year] that 100 percent of our advertising to children will feature either a nutrition or a balanced-active lifestyle message.
You think the meals at McDonald's are healthy and nutritious?
I do. It is possible to eat from the recommended USDA My Plate food groups when visiting McDonald's. It's about choice. It's about customization. It's about looking at the calories on the menu board.