Wholesome McDonald’s Oatmeal Breakfast? Probably Not Yet.

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McDonald’s recently introduced a new breakfast food: Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. Described on the McDonald’s website as “what happens when wholesome meets delicious,” it’s the franchise's latest attempt at offering healthy food. With its “100% natural whole grain oats,” “plump raisins,” dried cranberries and raisins, and diced apples, the cereal does seem to be a healthy breakfast option.

The problem is that there are several unnecessary ingredients combined with the wholesome-sounding ones--and even the most basic ingredients are not truly healthy or natural. The listed ingredients include maltodextrin, barley malt extract, food coloring, sulphur dioxide, sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, carrageenan, and other additives. Also, though it’s possible to order the oatmeal without sugar, both versions still have plenty of calories (260 without sugar, 290 with sugar) and fat.

Mark Bittman railed against the Golden Arches and its newest breakfast offering in a New York Times opinion piece earlier this week. In it he exposed McDonald’s hypocrisy in serving a highly processed, sugar-filled, calorie-dense version of a good old-fashioned breakfast food, and pretending that its “Fruit and Maple Oatmeal” is actually healthy. Bittman went on to give four suggestions for how to make a quick and easy breakfast of oatmeal that would be far more nutritious than the McDonald’s version and that would contain zero additives.

Even beyond the basic concerns that McDonald’s oatmeal contains too much fat, sugar, and unhealthy additives, there is the question of where the ingredients came from and how they were grown and produced. The McDonald’s website says nothing about where the oats, apples, cranberries, and raisins were cultivated, and it’s unlikely that any of them were grown organically. Apples rank number four in the “dirty dozen,” a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to warn consumers about the products most likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Imported grapes are ranked number 12 on the same list.

The milk used in the “light cream” is probably not much better, and it most likely came from a large, industrial dairy. On a nutrition FAQ page, McDonald’s says that it buys its dairy products from Kraft and Dean Foods, among other suppliers (see this Natural Food List article on Dean Foods). Though both Dean and Kraft own organic brands, McDonald’s doesn’t seem to be buying or serving organic dairy from them, at least not in the US. Moreover, though McDonald's claims environmental responsibility and concern for the welfare of animals, it has yet to make real strides towards providing sustainable, organic, or even slightly natural foods for its customers.

Customers may need to wait a little while longer before McDonald’s really shows what happens when “wholesome meets delicious.”

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