Image: theimpulsivebuy via flickr

McDonald’s is making headlines again, this time for their Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. In Mark Bittman’s New York Times Opinionator article, How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong, he lambastes McDonald’s  for turning their oatmeal into “expensive junk food.”

So why is McDonald’s oatmeal so unhealthy? It starts with the fact that their new “bowl full of wholesome” contains 21 ingredients or as Bittman says,

“A more accurate description than “100% 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.”

So what is actually in the oatmeal? McDonald’s first ingredient list shows: Oatmeal, Diced Apples, Cranberry Raisin Blend, Light Cream. Wow, only 5 easy-to-understand and simple ingredients; sounds good, right? But then as you look down the page a bit you realize that each of those ingredients have sub-ingredients:

Oatmeal:
Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color (the oatmeal without brown sugar does not contain brown sugar, but adds maltodextrin).

Diced Apples:
Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).

Cranberry Raisin Blend:
Dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).

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

Out of curiosity, where is the maple in their “Fruit & Maple Oatmeal?” Apparently, that is a whole other topic as McDonald’s was sued by State Officials in Vermont for using the word maple without the product actually containing real maple syrup. While the oatmeal can be ordered with or without sugar, the amount of calories this breakfast dish contains in quite shocking. As Bittman so eloquently states:

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.)

This a classic example of a food company taking a healthy food, adding a bunch of chemicals, colorings, preservatives and sweeteners to make it “better” (read = cheaper and lasts forever on the shelf). Thanks but no thanks. I’ll stick to my boiled rolled oats with fresh apples, unsweetened raisins, cinnamon, cooked with good old water.

Sources:

New York Times
McDonald’s Promotions
McDonald’s Ingredients List
bnet.com
Image: theimpulsivebuy via flickr