Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mickey D's and the Disappointing Fats

Oh, McDonalds, how I loathe thee. I read an opinion piece today in the New York Times by Mark Bittman called How to Make Oatmeal...Wrong, which criticizes McDonald's for not being able to even get their oatmeal right and criticizes the folks who frequent McDonald's for the "convenience" factor. I seriously cringe when I think about all the times that I splurged on McDonald's fries in the 32 years before I finally saw the light. You would think that with all the negative publicity they've received over the past few years that McD's would finally try to do good. But they can't even get oatmeal right. It's oats. OATS. The oatmeal in my house has one ingredient. You ready for it? Organic natural oats. Why must their oatmeal contain 7? My oatmeal has 0 grams of sodium; theirs has 140. My oatmeal contains less than 1 gram of sugar; theirs has 14.

AND THEIR FOOD IS STILL MADE WITH BAD FATS! This is the part that makes me really mad. I took a look at the nutritional information and ingredients in their food. I would say that I can identify about half of the ingredients in their grilled chicken breast patty. Um, shouldn't it just be chicken? It says right there in the nutritional contents that their chicken breast is made with liquid margarine, which contains partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils. I know there are folks that look at that and see the word soybean and think they are eating something healthy. Wrong. It's poison. offers this lovely explanation: Partial hydrogenation is an industrial process used to make a perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into a perfectly bad oil. The process is used to make an oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or 'mouthfeel.' The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans fat. I won't bore you with all the gory science. You can take my word for it that it's poison, or you can read about it here or here or here. (And in case you're wondering, yes, McD's fries are made with hydrogenated oils and other questionable additives.)

I wish this wasn't so because so many of my favorite vices contain hydrogenated oils: Kit Kats, Snickers, and basically every candy bar on the market. (I can't tell you how hard it's been for me to stay away from the ubiquitous candy jar at work that is laden with all of these candy bar treats.) Even Girl Scout cookies. Let me put that one in perspective. The Girl Scouts advertise that none of their cookies contain trans fats even where their three most popular brands - Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs - are made with partially hydrogenated oils. For some ungodly reason, if a product contains less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving, it may be advertised as having 0 grams of trans fats. Let's think about that one, ok? The Girl Scouts FAQs states that all varieties of cookies contain less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving (so even though they are legally allowed to advertise that their cookies contain 0 grams of trans fats, that's simply not true). A serving of Samoas is two cookies. So if Samoas contains .4 grams of trans fats per serving (which, as described above, can be listed on the ingredients label as 0 grams of trans fats), and you eat six Samoas (and let's be honest, you can't eat just two), you've just consumed 1.2 grams of trans fats. That's NOT the 0 grams you bargained for. I'm not sure how they reconcile this with Girl Scouts law to respect others, use resources wisely, take responsibility, and make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, I find that most kids' snacks contain partially hydrogenated oils. Quick story: My husband and I took my son to Griffith Observatory and my husband, who is incessantly hungry, mosied on over to the snack shop to grab a quick something to eat. He came back with one of those pre-packaged Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now you would think that would contain very few ingredients: bread (obviously made with a variety of ingredients), peanut butter, and whatever makes up strawberry jam (should just be strawberries and sugar). But to my utter shock and awe, it also contained partially hydrogenated oils in the bread AND the peanut butter, among about 20-30 other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Why on earth? I guarantee that was not what Mrs. Smuckers intended.

I am thankful for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for making my life a bit easier. I have yet to find a food item in either store that contains partially hydrogenated oils. And, luckily for us, there is one fast food chain that does not use hydrogenated oils: In n Out! That's what a hamburger's all about, I tell you. Because even with all this healthy living, you just gotta have a good burger and fries once in a while.

Caveat: my husband has not fully jumped on this anti-fast-food bandwagon with me. I think in theory he has, but he just needs (or wants) junk food once in a while. He has cut down on fast food a bit, but his doctor told him that fast food once a week is a-OK, and my husband heeds that advice and cites it whenever I find an empty brown bag with a smiley-faced star on it in his car. I choose my battles.

As always, a picture of my muse:

No comments:

Post a Comment