No More Greasy Burgers: Fast-food Image New and Improved?

Face of Fast Food is ChangingThe iconic golden arches have brought smiles to millions from children to seniors. With a friendly clown as the mascot and play areas to keep the younger ones entertained, we all have fond memories of McDonald’s. And although we know that fast food isn’t the best meal option for us, we all have those moments that lead us back to the glowing “M” for a Big Mac and fries.

Over the years, McDonald’s has been trying to change its fast-food image with the start of McCafe, a more welcoming restaurant with couches and fireplaces. Then they brought in more salads, healthier options like apple slices, offered nutritional information about menu items and answered consumer questions about their food. Yet, McDonald’s next move may be the most extreme.

Same Food? Brand New Image

At a recent news conference held by McDonald’s in New York, waiters brought out chef-prepared food using company ingredients to reporters and food bloggers. Items such as Kung Pao chicken with nuggets, sweet and sour sauce and parsley; gnocchi, created with the classic fries; for dessert, a hybrid between a biscuit and a donut. Although you won’t be seeing these items on a menu anytime soon, the idea was to upgrade the image from fast food to “good food served fast.”

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The company is trying to fight the backlash that their food is not high-quality, given the low prices and quick service. Early this year, CEO Don Thompson made the claim, “The produce and the products that we have at breakfast and across the menu are fresher than—no disrespect intended—what most of you have in your refrigerators.”

Many fast-food chains are following suit when it comes to creating a new look to lure the more health-conscious customer. Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, has a menu called DDSmart, its healthy choice menu where the meals come under 400 calories. Their website will even help you make healthier choices, like swapping out an English muffin for a plain bagel, or opting for ham instead of sausage.

If you visit Wendy’s website, in big bold letters, you’ll read, “Quality is what drives us every single day,” further pushing the notion that fast food can also be high-quality and good for you. It seems along with every menu item description you will find the words, “quality,” “fresh,” and “wholesome”—all giving you the feeling of that homemade meal straight from Mom’s kitchen.

Is Fast Food Really That Bad?

Although these fast-food restaurants are trying to promote fresh ingredients, healthy substitutions and quality, is it now safe to say we can enjoy it every day? Probably not.

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Eating fast food regularly can increase your bad cholesterol, insulin resistance and cause depression—and that’s just the shortlist. Although the ingredients may be fresh, it’s the unknown ingredients that can cause you more long-term harm: High sodium and trans fat can put you at risk for heart disease. A 2012 study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology revealed that after one fast-food item (yes, it just takes one item) damage immediately occurs within the arteries. And if you’ve been feeling overly tired or suffer from foggy thinking, you can also blame fast food for that as well.

When it comes to eating this type of food, less is more.

When Food Safety Becomes an Issue

Now we’re not trying to scare you that your Egg McMuffin with egg whites and cucumber will send you to the ER, but we do want to make you aware of marketing techniques that may have you eating more drive-through, more often.

McDonald’s, as well as other big-name companies, will continue to fight for your business and adapt to the changing needs of society by offering healthier, more natural food, all to keep profits soaring.

It’s up to you to put your foot down (and that plastic fork) and decide what you want to eat. We understand it’s not always the easiest to pre-plan and pack your lunches and dinners, and there truly is nothing wrong with fast food in moderation.

Just know the facts. Visit these companies’ websites, ask questions and look into the ingredients. Ultimately it’s for your own well-being.


 

Sources:

Associated Press in New York, “McDonald’s tries cucumbers and gnocchi to confront junk food image,” The Guardian, August 18, 2014; http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/aug/18/mcdonalds-fast-junk-food-image-health-prices.

Miller, C., “How does junk food harm the body,” LiveStrong, March 13, 2014; http://www.livestrong.com/article/475803-how-does-junk-food-harm-our-bodies/.