Going to McDonald’s for a healthy, balanced meal is like watching MTV for educational value. However, McDonald’s is working to change its calorie-laden image by highlighting its healthy menu choices, most likely in preparation for next month’s release of Chew On This by Eric Schlosser, according to an Associated Press story.
The book is a version of Schlosser’s 2001 release, Fast Food Nation, targeted at preteens and teenagers. Fast Food Nation took an in-depth look at the not-so-healthy, behind-the-scenes action at McDonald’s. In the same vein, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me showed the damage fast food can do to a body when he binged on an all-McDonald’s diet for a month.
The works of Spurlock and Schlosser surely sent wake-up calls to many consumers and McDonald’s executives. While the company had no formal response to these media, it responded indirectly through the addition of healthier menu items, such as a variety of salads. In the past few years, McDonald’s has also developed the Go Active! program for its consumers, which gives information about the proper diet and exercise routines needed to live a “balanced lifestyle.” Despite these efforts, Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner admitted of the chain’s health-conscious efforts are not up to par. “We’re not doing as good a job as we could, quite frankly,” Skinner said in an Associated Press story.
McDonald’s did a better job of making a health-conscious choice easier in spring 2004 when it offered its Go Active! adult Happy Meals, which included a premium salad, a bottle of water and a “toy” – a pedometer, which can help people track their level of activity through the amount of steps taken throughout the day. Though the Go Active! program still exists, the adult Happy Meals were discontinued. The restaurant should have continued this meal deal, as it was a good way to make a healthy choice easy for consumers, combining proper diet and exercise tools all in one package.
Yet, no matter how easy McDonald’s makes these healthy choices and how much the chain may try to distance itself from its original image as a burger-and-fries restaurant, it is not McDonald’s that holds the responsibility of making healthy choices for each person in America – it is the responsibility of the individual.