McDonald’s Serves Up Real Food — NOT!

I’ve often lamented about how impossible it is to find Real Food when out of the house. I usually “compromise” and make the best choice available. Maybe you do, too. Maybe, just maybe, you might have found yourself looking at the new McDonald’s menu option of Oatmeal and thinking, “Well, the oats probably weren’t soaked overnight, but how badly can they mess this up?”

You’d be surprised! (Or, maybe you wouldn’t be. I mean, do any of us REALLY expect McDonald’s to get something as simple as oatmeal right?)

If you were making “Fruit and Maple Oatmeal,” how many ingredients would you include? Five? For me, it’d be rolled oats, yogurt (to soak the oats in overnight), butter, maple syrup, and diced fruit. I could maybe imagine a touch of salt or a bit of cream, too. So, what’s that? Seven?

From a recent Mark Bittman rant:

A more accurate description than “100 percent natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Since we know there are barely any rules governing promotion of foods, one might wonder how this compares to real oatmeal, besides being 10 times as expensive. Some will say that it tastes better, but that’s because they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods, which is what this bowlful of wholesome is.

Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work. If you prefer so-called instant, flavored oatmeal, see this link, which will describe how to make your own).

The aspect one cannot argue is nutrition: Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)

More sugar than a Snicker’s bar!

I could really care less how many calories it is, mostly because calories figure so rarely into any of my food choices. But I do care about tons of added sugar. Oh, and the 11 weird ingredients I would never keep in my kitchen.

Really, McDonald’s, is it that hard to do oatmeal right?

(photo by theimpulsivebuy)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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44 Responses to McDonald’s Serves Up Real Food — NOT!
  1. Kathleen Lester via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    Just glancing…I thought it was reconstituted mashed potatoes. :P

  2. Mary Ann Donnarumma Kobes via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    Very unflattering!

  3. Brandie Robitson- Schwartz via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:19 pm

    I will stay home and eat my yummy steel cut oats with dried sour cherries and cranberries!

  4. Greta Trocki via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:19 pm

    This is just another ploy to fool the less informed into thinking they’re attempting to serve better “healthier” food. .

  5. Darlene Thomas via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:23 pm

    looks like puke

  6. Aaron Kerri Smits via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:25 pm

    I completely agree Greta!

  7. Nikki Tucker via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:26 pm

    Smh…

  8. Alice Benham via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:28 pm

    Hahaha! It looks like badly-mixed wallpaper paste with fruit floating in it!

  9. Erin Burke Edwards via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:28 pm

    It does look gross… nothing like the homemade oatmeal that is super easy and cheap that we make at home.

  10. Heather
    March 2, 2011 | 6:31 pm

    Worse than the looks is the taste. My McD’s loving husband (I know, I’m slowly converting him) brought this home to try. Not only did it look WORSE than that picture but the taste was so bad we both spit it out in the sink. My husband never spits out food. Never.

  11. Michelle Fleck via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:40 pm

    Alice, I’ve had it and now that you mention it… you probably could use that stuff as wallpaper paste.

  12. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:40 pm

    @Erin — I love this quote from Bittman about it: “Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. “

  13. Erin Burke Edwards via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:41 pm

    Exactly! And what’s crazy is that they put wheat in it too… nothing safe there for those with food allergies!

  14. Nikki Tucker via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:43 pm

    @Food Renegade-I rather take the time in my own kitchen, then to have to spend all the extra money, time, and grief in a Doctor’s office, on meds, and SICK! I am amazed at what ppl will sacrifice all for convenience. :(

  15. Olinda Paul via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 6:46 pm

    I agree with Alice! Does not look appetizing to me at all. I make mine gluten free with the least amount of sugar as possible and with various nuts, or seeds, or fruit. I haven’t tried to soak it in yogurt yet though. I will have t give it a try.

  16. Chris
    March 2, 2011 | 6:51 pm

    Nice that you got a shout out from Mark Bittman! Love your blog and while I often prepare groats or steel cut oatmeal for the family I confess to having some organic store bought packets for running late on school days. I will check out your instant oatmeal link. Thank you!!!

  17. Brooke Lorren
    March 2, 2011 | 7:25 pm

    The real oatmeal that I had this morning looked much better than that.

  18. Dawn
    March 2, 2011 | 8:17 pm

    Yuck! I make soaked/baked oatmeal and can reheat it later in the week. I have healthy oatmeal in minutes. This is way more convenient than finding a drive through.

  19. Bruce
    March 2, 2011 | 8:25 pm

    From MickeyD’s site:

    Oatmeal: Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.

    Oatmeal without Brown Sugar: Whole grain rolled oats, food starch-modified, maltodextrin, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color

    Light Cream: Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan

  20. Kristine Dice via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 8:28 pm

    That “oatmeal” doesn’t look right… I wouldn’t eat it!

  21. Pat Spelling via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 9:00 pm

    Looks instant, yuck, I hate instant because it is like paste

  22. The Table of Promise
    March 2, 2011 | 9:11 pm

    I saw this article on twitter a few days ago. I was just frustrated that Bittman didn’t mention WHAT the 11 weird ingredients were??!!

  23. Isabell Norman via Facebook
    March 2, 2011 | 9:26 pm

    looks like the stuff that comes out backwards. Yuck!

  24. Jo at Jo's Health Corner
    March 2, 2011 | 10:28 pm

    Sadly I see people sharing information on FB about how great it is that McDonald’s is serving a “healthy” breakfast for once..

  25. Erik (Real Food Dude 2)
    March 2, 2011 | 11:12 pm

    It’s like somebody in their food science department was trying to make a joke, but a sales rep heard it and ran with it all the way to the menu. Of course, I suppose that there’s no way that they could manage to sell it if they didn’t use all that sugar and other stuff to mask the barren wasteland of blandness caused by using the cheapest possible ingredients for everything. What’s amazing to me is that it must be cheaper to add all of those exotic chemicals than it would be to just make real oatmeal. What a world!

  26. amy
    March 2, 2011 | 11:34 pm

    That looks disgusting! My daughter would not eat that! Her papa made her instant oatmeal and she was very skeptical of it! I use extra thick rolled oats for my family and they love them! Oats, dab of butter, honey, sprinkle of cinnamon and a little milk or cream…That is oatmeal!

  27. Vivian R Palmer Harvey via Facebook
    March 3, 2011 | 12:28 am

    McDonalds makes those “chicken nuggets” of skin, fat, and some kind of binder flour…then fries them.. its skin, fat and flour, folks… YEAH!!

  28. Christin@purplebirdblog
    March 3, 2011 | 12:41 am

    It has cornstarch in it… what the hell for?!

  29. Tiffany McCauley via Facebook
    March 3, 2011 | 12:49 am

    No matter how you photograph it, McDonald’s is gross. How anybody can consider it food is beyond me. I’m ashamed to admit I used to eat it on rare occasions. But haven’t touched the stuff in years, and never will again. Ick.

  30. Alex Sobieski
    March 3, 2011 | 3:25 am

    GROSS!

    Who wants to bet on MSG as one of them?

  31. Pure Mothers
    March 3, 2011 | 6:35 am

    Yuck. I’ve had McDonald’s fruit cup in the past and the apples taste weird. Never again. I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s in 10 years! And what about the yogurt cups they serve on planes? So sickly sweet. I had to let my son have it once b/c we ran out of snacks and the vegetarian dish was spicy Indian food. I wonder what the 11 weird ingredients are?

  32. Liz
    March 3, 2011 | 8:24 am

    I read the Bittman piece a few days ago, and I was completely grossed out. I’ll admit, my first reaction when I heard they were serving oatmeal was to say “finally, a healthy choice for those who eat there”, but I should have known they would make it a breakfast Frankenstein. Way to go, McDonald’s.

  33. Mike Lieberman
    March 3, 2011 | 11:47 am

    It’s crazy what’s passed off as food and what companies can say. That’s why I say the best restaurant that I go to is the one in my kitchen. At least I know what’s going into my food.

  34. Carolyn Kennedy
    March 3, 2011 | 2:02 pm

    Oh my- sheesh!! I guess the are appealing to sheeple (sheep people) how aren’t label readers and say “Oatmeal is healthy right?” So what about Starbuck’s Oatmeal? I assume it’s not much better- not that I eat either. Even before we were real foodies, I thought it was insane to pay for fastfood oatmeal simply because it’s so quick n’ easy at home!!

  35. OraWellness via Facebook
    March 3, 2011 | 2:09 pm

    @Krintine, hehe, smart woman! “I wouldn’t eat it” That’s because it’s not FOOD! Fun thread…

  36. OraWellness via Facebook
    March 3, 2011 | 2:11 pm

    Agreed about the benefits of soaking oats in yogurt/kefir/raw milk overnight. It completely changes it into way less acid forming! Much better for us as well as increasing the nutrient content in it! Lacto fermentation increases B vitamins!

  37. Kate
    March 3, 2011 | 3:57 pm

    I wouldn’t eat that slop if I was starving……I love steel cut oatmeal….worth the extra time and it is sooo good…..fruit or yogurt or a little brown sugar; the best.
    I am off to find some good cream to make some butter……sounds great.
    Kate

  38. Amy
    March 3, 2011 | 4:05 pm

    Carolyn…. “sheeple”…so on point! I use that word myself. It really is sad how little the average person knows of health and diet.

  39. Holly Marie Meadows via Facebook
    March 3, 2011 | 4:12 pm

    Did any of us really believe that they WOULDN’T ruin a perfectly good food?

  40. Walter Jeffries
    March 6, 2011 | 7:27 am

    First an admission, I don’t eat at McDonalds or any of those fast food places. However, I am very surprised at your statement “about how impossible it is to find Real Food when out of the house.” Since we deliver our pastured pork to local area restaurants I go in the back kitchens of a lot of restaurants and they do make food just like we do it at home. I’ve seen the kitchens of a lot of other restaurants who aren’t our customers and they too cook from scratch. I think you’re just not looking in the right places or maybe things are vastly different where you are than they are in Vermont. That latter idea seems surprising but I suppose it is possible.

    • KristenM
      March 8, 2011 | 12:58 pm

      Hi Walter,

      There are a few restaurants in my area that serve up grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products, and we gladly frequent them. They also tend to be the sort of places that make everything from scratch — even condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup! But despite getting this “right,” they still get many other things “wrong.” (For example, they’ll cook their foods in modern, refined vegetable oils rather than in traditional fats like butter, tallow, etc. Or they serve up breads made with refined flours and sugars.) So, despite being so GOOD, they’re still not like my own kitchen.

  41. Tammy Lynn via Facebook
    March 14, 2011 | 12:24 am

    I soak my steel cut oats every night..didn’t think about soaking in kefir…will have to try it. tx

  42. Anon
    October 12, 2012 | 4:43 pm

    I work there and it’s Quaker oatmeal… I’m not saying it’s good stuff, but it’s not just McDicks that serves it. Where food comes from can have a big impact on its perceived healthiness.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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