The Best Proof Ever that Fast Food is Typically Bad for You


Pictured above is something you already knew: the meal on the left, a typical fast food combo, isn’t all that good for you, while the choice on the right is a much better option. Let’s do some math, though, just for fun.

The meal on the left looks like it could be something from, say, McDonald’s — there are no logos but the cup and fries container are red. Let’s say that the cup is a large Coke, the burger is a Big Mac (even though Big Macs don’t have tomatoes), and the fries are, to be charitable, a small. (And yes, McDonald’s fries are generally thinner, more akin to shoestring than steak fries, but close enough, right?) If you check out McD’s nutrition facts (pdf here), you’ll learn that the Big Mac contains 530 calories, the fries have 230 calories, and a large Coke — 30 ounces — is another 280 calories. That’s 1,040 calories — and we won’t even go into the other nutritional values (or lack thereof).

Let’s further guess that the meal on the right is from Subway. Let’s call the sandwich a six-inch black forest ham — 216 calories — and the salad, oh, how about a “Subway Club Sandwich” (even though it looks like a plate of just vegetables) which comes in 361 calories. (We’re trying to be charitable to McDonald’s here.) The water is an uncontroversial 0 calories, so the whole meal clocks in at 577 calories, or a bit more than half of the McDonald’s one.

Again, none of this is surprising. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. But just in case, many employers arm their employees with information like the above — employers have an interest in maintaining and improving the health and wellness of their employees, after all. Some employers already have special websites designed to disseminate critical information to their employees — the employee handbook, corporate policies, how to set up direct deposit, etc., and at times, with resources to get assistance with things like drug addiction or excessive drinking. If a company with one of those websites also wants to encourage healthy eating habits, putting the image above on that employee resources website makes a lot of sense.

And, in fact, the image above came from one of those websites.

But surprisingly, the website was created by McDonald’s.

The website, called “McResources,” aimed to help employees with a lot of different issues. Tips on how to choose a healthy meal option when time and money were tight was one of those areas the website used to address — and McResources wasn’t too fond of McDonald’s own menu. Some choice quotes, via CNBC:

  • “Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”
  • “In general, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease must be very careful about choosing fast food because of its high fat, salt, and sugar levels.”
  • “It is hard to eat a healthy diet when you eat at fast-food restaurants often.”

And while that’s all good advice, it’s probably not the type that McDonald’s wanted to be in the business of dispensing. Word of the McResources website hit the news in 2013 and spread quickly. McDonald’s, citing “unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary” about the site, shuttered it a few days later. Employees can now get their McResources via phone — and it’s unclear if “is a Big Mac Extra Value Meal good for me?” is something the hotline will discuss.

AnchorBonus Fact: Amazingly, the “don’t eat our food, it’s bad for you” faux pas wasn’t the first time McDonald’s found itself embarrassed due to its McResources. Earlier in 2013, an employee with ten years at the fast food giant — making $8.25 an hour — called the hotline asking for financial advice, “in hopes of finding help making ends meet,” per the L.A. Times. The McResources response? McDonald’s wasn’t paying her enough to support her family, and she should apply for food stamps. (At least they were consistent: they didn’t advise her to forgo fresh food and, instead, eat more Big Macs.)

From the Archives: Saving Sonic: How McDonald’s changed its menu to improve the health and wellness of hedgehogs.

Take the Quiz: Name the first 10 nations to have a McDonald’s.

Related: McDonald’s Big Mac Bobble Head. It’s awesome. It’s so awesome, I added it to AwesomeClaus, my site of great gift ideas for under $20.