Making the Right Choices in a Fast-Food Restaurant

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is that I’m starting to get out and about in the Raleigh area, and am meeting other bloggers and community leaders.  Recently, I was invited to attend a fall blogger luncheon hosted by local business owner Carol Martin, who owns and operates several McDonald’s in the Triangle.

Martin, now a proud grandmother, has owned a McDonald’s franchise since 1986.  It’s no surprise; as her franchise listened to consumer complaints and suggestions over the years, she’s seen a lot of changes.  She’s been through numerous menu changes and restaurant remodels in her 25 years of owning a fast-food restaurant.

2011 McDonald's Blogging Luncheon
 In fact, for this luncheon we dined in a quaint room with brick walls, which certainly didn’t make me think of fast food.  It was cozy and reminded me of an upscale coffee shop, as opposed to the brightly lit, plastic-type décor I remember from my youth. 

At our table, there was not a burger in sight. I dined on a Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken accompanied by Paul Newman’s Creamy Southwest dressing.  I had never had it before, and, truthfully, it was as good if not better than any upscale salad that you pay $8.99 for in national, gourmet-type lunch restaurants.  With dressing, the salad is 420 calories.

I’ll go ahead and share with you that I didn’t eat in a lot of McDonald’s growing up.  You see, that restaurant was my dad’s competition.  He owned a KFC franchise, so you can imagine that he didn’t take me to a McDonald’s very often. 

More than likely, a lot of my friends didn’t eat in a McDonald’s very often, either.   Getting a happy meal with a cheeseburger and fries was a celebrated treat.  During the ’70s and ’80s, most families ate home-cooked meals, so a night or two of extra sodium, and calories, was OK because it was all in moderation.

But times have changed.

McDonald's in North Raleigh

The drive-thru line at Martin’s McDonald’s was never-ending while I was there.  There was always a line at the counter, too.  More and more families are turning to fast-food restaurants for lunch or dinner several times a week.  Fast food makes a busy mom’s life less hectic.   Martin realizes how much families now rely on her restaurant and says that McDonald’s is committed to helping families stay healthy by giving them top-quality products and choices. 

You’ve probably already read that McDonald’s is changing the happy meals so that each meal will have fewer calories.  Parents will no longer have to choose between apples and fries.   The new meal will contain smaller 100-calorie fries and a smaller package of apples.  This change will roll out after the holidays here in the Triangle. 
New package for 100-Calorie fry in McDonald's Happy Meals

I’m fortunate that I don’t rely on fast food often to feed my family, so french fries in moderation were never a concern for me.  I always let my kids have the fries, but they are not eating them four out of seven days, either. 

I may ruffle a few feathers, but parents are responsible for their child’s eating habits, not a restaurant.  I think this is a great addition to the happy meal menu, and it’s appreciated that McDonald’s is working to get calories and sodium content down in their products.   However, I believe that parents need to think beyond a box with a toy and a lower price if they rely on fast-food restaurants for the majority of their meals. 

If your child likes a salad, then order a side salad.  Buy your child a plain grilled chicken sandwich, a fruit and yogurt parfait, a fruit salad, or an oatmeal, if fast food is on your menu plan several nights a week. McDonald’s is giving you a wide selection of healthy menu items under the recommended 600 calories; it is your job as a parent to go for that variety.

Sure, I have a second child who is picky, and it’s difficult feeding her at home and in a restaurant, but I offer her what we eat most nights.  I don’t make her chicken nuggets and french fries every night. She would live off of them if I let her.  Many nights, she will go to bed eating only yogurt and cereal because she refused to eat our kid-friendly, healthy meal.

Martin realizes the difficulties busy parents face in meal-planning day after day.  Guest speakers for our luncheon included two nutritionists from Wake County’s Health Promotion-Chronic Disease Prevention office.  We all know we need to make smart choices about our diet, but it is still shocking when you are shown a large soft drink bottle of a well-known lemonade brand with 17 teaspoons of sugar in it.  Sports drinks are just as bad.

 It’s best to choose water or milk for a child.  One hundred percent juice is OK if they have not consumed a lot in one day.  The nutritionists really recommend only four ounces of juice a day; otherwise, water it down.

Healthy choices are becoming more available in places like McDonald’s, but it’s your decision to choose them. 


(Regional Giveaway)
As a gift for attending the blogging luncheon, McDonald’s gave me free food coupons that can be redeemable at regional McDonald’s in North and South Carolina only.  I plan to share these coupons with my Carolina readers because I want to thank you for sticking with me week after week.

Two lucky winners will receive:

5 gift cards for a free Small McCafe Beverage
5 gift cards for a snack wrap
5 gift cards for a Premium Chicken Sandwich
5 gift cards for Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

*You will have until December 31, 2012, to use them, and only one card can be used at a time. 

If you can use the gift cards, then leave a comment below saying you would like to be entered into the drawing by Monday, November 14 at 11:59 pm.  The winner will be selected by random draw.

Oh, and by the way, “I’m lovin’ it” … the oatmeal that is.  You've got to try it.  I think I've had it three times this week. 

Bonus Entries

In an effort to reach Carolina residents, please help spread the word and share giveaway on Facebook.  (One entry) 

Tweet the following: Hines-Sight Blog is giving away free McDonald's coupons that can be used in North and South Carolina. #McDfall (One entry)

Disclosure: McDonald’s paid for my lunch and gave me these regional gift cards to use at my discretion.  As with all of my posts on this blog, my opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company.

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