I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for McDonald’s. I attended an event to facilitate my review and received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.
I take for granted that surrounding me in the Salinas Valley is quite literally the Salad Bowl of the world. I got a chance to appreciate it a bit more a few weeks ago with a group of journalists on the McDonald’s Field to Restaurant Tour. Arriving at, of course, McDonald’s for breakfast in San Jose, I grabbed some Fruit and Maple Oatmeal and met some bloggers from the area. I’d never tried the oatmeal at McDonald’s and I enjoyed it! Later I’d learn that it’s offered all day long making it that pick me up that you may crave later in the afternoon! After breakfast the group of us jumped on a luxury bus and began our drive down into the Salinas Valley for an afternoon of food education.
On the bus with us, we met registered dietician Cathy Carmichael who provided us with McDonald’s 101. It’s no doubt that I, and possibly many of you have believed that fast food translates to unhealthy food. But in fact, McDonald’s buys many of the same real ingredients from the same brands that you and I find in the grocery store. McDonald’s continually wants to improve the nutritional value of their food and commit to reducing sodium (by 15% by 2015), calories, and added sugars from their foods, and want to eliminate trans fat from their menu all together by 2020 all through portion sizes, reformulations, and innovations.
How you may ask? This was a huge revelation to me, it makes sense really,and all it takes is making the extra effort for your own health and your families’ to request the following:
Ordering your sandwich without cheese saves 200mg of sodium
Use less or skip condiments that contain added sodium
Save 120 calories-order a small McCafe Strawberry Banana Smoothie over a Hot Fudge Sundae
Save 160 calories-order a Premium Salad with grilled chicken over crispy chicken
Trim 11 fat grams-order Apple Slices over French fries (ask for 2 packs of apple in the Happy Meal!)
Trim 10 fat grams-order an Egg McMuffin over a Sausage McMuffin
There are so many ways to learn about the nutritional value of your McDonald’s meal, this was the most important part of the day for me. Something as easy as education can really make a difference. Here’s a handy chart with 600 calories or less meal combinations to get you started, click to enlarge.Also, head to http://www.mcdonalds.com/nutrition to build your meal and get the nutrition summary and figure out how you can make smarter, healthier choices for you and your family.
We made it to Taylor Farms lettuce fields and it’s pretty fascinating that I’ve been driving by this field since I was a child as it’s on the way to the beaches I visit to this very day. This time I stopped to smell the…romaine and fragrant it is! We literally got down and dirty. Really, my boots still have mud remnants from walking heel to toe like a tightrope down the rows of leafy greens. Donning a hairnet and gloves, we walked and talked and learned about Taylor Farms’ very important roles in the production and supply of more than half of McDonald’s restaurant’s lettuce across the country. Did you know McDonald’s has 35 items on their menu containing lettuce?Planting to harvest is between 65-70 days and most important is that the lettuce that is packaged and shipped to a McDonald’s restaurant is consumed within 6-10 days on average! That is quicker than the lettuce you purchase at the store, how’s that for fresh? My husband has worked in tomato fields driving harvester so it was important for me to learn that Taylor Farms’ newest machine (pictured above) is more ergonomically correct for many farm workers. Saving backs one employee at a time, this new machine prevents the repetitive bending over and cutting the lettuce which one can do a few thousand times per day!Our next stop was Taylor Farms Packing and Distribution Center. Here we see the machines equipped with various agitation phases to clean the lettuce ensuring the end result is ready to eat, essentially triple washing their lettuce before it even gets packaged. You have more of a chance for contamination in your own kitchen, so this lettuce is edible straight from the bag!
Our final stop for the day was the National Steinbeck Center. Here we listened to a panel of food suppliers to McDonald’s speak and then on to a challenge of sorts given to chefs Sakahara and Bozzo of Gilroy Garlic Festival Fame! Our gourmet lunch was made from ingredients, produce, meat, etc… that delivers to McDonald’s every single day. No, we didn’t have Big Macs and Ice Cream Sundaes but we had a special twist on everything you could find in that fast food restaurant, believe it or not!
First course was French onion soup and Mini Mac with chipotle aioli. The croutons were made from the hamburger buns, and the slider was 100% USDA beef with no fillers. The two were phenomenal in flavor. Next up was a Green Salinas Valley salad with Taylor Farms lettuce, eggs, croutons, and a citrus blueberry vinaigrette that the fruit is also used in the smoothies and parfaits and more! The homey, comforting, seasonal flavors of the stuffed chicken breast was made with the all white meat chicken in the salads and sandwiches. The stuffing was apples, cranberries, and Canadian bacon, the very same used in the Egg McMuffins. Serve this very lunch to anyone and they’d ask if it was from a 5-star restaurant! If the meal couldn’t get any better, gluten free chocolate espresso cake (flourless) with chocolate and strawberry drizzle…wow! The fudgy-like goodness was amazing. Needless to say, SakaBozzo were successes in the kitchen.
I was impressed and came out of the day with a favorable outlook for our families’ future trips to McDonald’s for a meal. With little steps on our part along with McDonald’s dedication to nutrition, we can enjoy a meal outside our kitchen without guilt! Never again will I drive that road past Taylor Farms and not give a second thought to the hard work farmers do everyday to provide quality on our tables. Thank you Mom Central and McDonald’s for the opportunity!