There’s nothing quite like a McSalad!

Kellie Collins

I’m lovin’ it! That’s exactly what I thought when I heard about the new healthier options at McDonald’s – fruit, yoghurt and even salads. At long last there’s something for everyone, and those of us watching our waists no longer need to avoid the Golden Arches…or do we?

Coming soon to a McDonald’s near you is the new Caesar Salad, with mouth-watering ingredients such as grilled chicken, croutons, six varieties of lettuce and Caesar dressing. Anyone looking at that list would be forgiven for thinking this is the beginning of a revolution of low-fat fast food. But a closer look at the nutrition content of this “healthy option” reveals that this salad is not your average rabbit food.

In fact, choosing a Caesar salad will pack in more fat than a burger and fries. Can you believe that?!? According to McD’s website, a chicken Caesar salad with dressing and croutons contains 407 calories and 23.6 grams of fat – that’s compared to 253 calories and 7.7 grams of fat in a standard hamburger! Who would have thought that a burger could be a better choice! Add a portion of fries to your burger and the calorie count increases to 459 calories, but even then, this meal provides less fat than the salad at 16.7 grams.

As McDonald’s remind us, we could always have the salad without the creamy dressing and croutons. While the fat content virtually disappears, you’re left with a few lettuce leaves and some bits of chicken – where’s the fun in that? A balsamic dressing is available but again, this changes a healthy-option salad into a high fat choice - a drizzle of this will still add 105 calories and 10.1 grams of fat to your meal.

If you don’t hail to Caesar, McD’s also offer Ranch salads. Their no meat version comes in much better at 107 calories - but watch out for those 12.8 grams of fat. Add a dollop of Ranch dressing to that and you are seriously tipping the balance at a super-size 428 calories and 38.7 grams of fat – yikes!

Speaking of super-size, McDonalds did announce last week that they are phasing out their “super-size” portions of fizzy drinks and fries. While this seems to be partly in response to pressure from the government and consumer groups, the threat of legal action from overweight diners must also be an incentive. Something tells me that this isn’t really going to solve the huge problem of obesity that we are hearing about everyday, although it could be just I the nick of time - if you were to super-size that Caesar salad you’d be in serious trouble!

In fairness to the fast food giants, they have agreed to reduce the amount of salt added to their fries by 25% and to their Chicken McNuggets by 30% over the next three years. But this still isn’t going to solve the problem of obesity, especially in children where almost one-fifth of 2 - 17 year olds are overweight. There have been some steps made in the right direction – fruit and yoghurt are now available with Happy Meals, for example, but there is still some way to go help parents and kids choose healthier options.

So what else can we do to make junk food less appealing to kids? In further evidence of the power of consumer groups, celebrities are being encouraged to promote healthy food such as fruit instead of crisps, chocolate and fast food. The Food Standards Agency has drawn up recommendations that sport personalities in particular, be targeted to endorse healthy eating, rather than promoting junk food. Will Gary Lineker part company with Walkers? Will Lawrence Dallaglio exit through the Golden Arches?

In the meantime, enjoy those salads as a great way to reach your 5-a-day but steer clear of the fat-laden dressings. You’ll be lovin’ it!

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