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Having a salad instead of fries won’t make your meal healthier

Posted: Oct 3, 2013

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Having a salad instead of fries won’t make your meal healthier

After reading that McDonald’s will now offer salads, fruit & vegetables as meal side options instead of French fries some may be singing their praises, but I’m not one of them. The reason is simple: adding something that may appear healthy to an otherwise unhealthy meal does not make it magically better if the overall meal is still full of highly processed food that has little nutritional value. It’s like having a diet soda instead of a regular one with your greasy burger and salty fries. Sure, it’s fewer calories, but the meal as a whole is still bad for you.

McDonald’s also has a way of taking healthy items and turning them into junk e.g. offering caramel sauce as a dip for their apples or offering oatmeal with 8 tsp of added sugar. This doesn’t leave me very hopeful for future fruit and vegetable menu items.

If you examine McDonald’s Canada current side salad offerings, you’ll see that their Caesar (w/o dressing) has 120 calories and 350mg of sodium/serving. Add regular Caesar dressing and the calories increase to 380 and the sodium to 650mg. Light Caesar dressing will result in a calorie total of 250 and 630mg of sodium. For comparison, a small order of fries contains 220 calories and 170 mg of sodium.

They do offer a side garden salad with a mere 40 calories and 60mg of sodium. But that’s without any dressing. And who eats salad without dressing? Even if I choose their lowest calorie choice (balsamic vinaigrette) you’re looking at a total of 150 calories and 460mg of sodium. So having a Caesar or garden salad with your burger will still result in a high number of calories and sodium. In fact, you’re better off getting a small order of fries instead of the Caesar salad.

But don’t the vegetables in the salad count? Not anymore than the ones on their various burgers do. And who honestly thinks their burgers are healthy simply because they have a tiny amount of vegetables as toppings?