McDonald’s Hits the Spot

Nellie Nichols visiting a McDonald’s, some mistake surely? Not a bit of it: in her latest review the food consultant checks out the company’s new Toasted Deli Sandwich range and finds it surprisingly good.

Every January it’s a bit of a mission to try and find delicious low calorie, low fat fast food. The only rule is I make myself pick from the most unlikely contenders. There’s no point trawling through the latest offering of lowest of the low claim sandwiches which is just cheating, no fun and invariably lacking in taste. It isn’t difficult to come up with big taste, low fat sandwiches, but time and again there are signs that this appears a real struggle.

So I show development teams ways to underpin and fill recipes with the right mixture of the strongest and most pungent tasting calorie free ingredients and then, honestly, it is difficult to go wrong. There’s no question that since Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me, a tongue-in-cheek, burger in hand look at the US fast food world of McDonald’s, the company has worked extremely hard to shed their unhealthy image and offer us all a huge choice of healthier options.

Who ever would have thought in 1974 when McDonald’s first opened in the UK it would now have over 1,000 restaurants serving over 2.5million customers a day? They must have got something right. Of course tastes and lifestyles change but you’ve got to hand it to them, they have seriously risen to the challenge.

Employing Dr Cathy Kapica, a public health scientist and dietician as Global Director of Nutrition, Anita Bean, a well regarded nutritionalist in the UK, together with Bob Greene, personal trainer, to launch the Go Active American Challenge, and Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute of California, together they are helping to create the menu change that recognises the importance of a balanced diet and lifestyle.

Healthier products you’ve probably seen now include salads, fresh fruit, porridge, low fat organic milk, and fresh juice. Recognisable well developed branded light products are now being featured in their menus such as Hellmans Light and Light Philadelphia Cheese to name a few. 17,000 British and Irish farmers are now among their suppliers. The eggs are free range.

Contrary to what some believe, nothing is added to their hamburgers, which are 100% meat and cooked in a double sided hot plate to avoid any need to add fat. Allergy lists and full nutritional breakdowns of each and every recipe and all their ingredients are readily available. In short, they offer every conceivable piece of information. They have absolutely nothing to hide. It is now more than possible to eat a healthy balanced daily diet at McDonald’s, consuming only the recommended daily amount of calories. A huge selection of daily choices is offered on their website.

So the first week of January I’m in there to try their new Toasted Deli Sandwich Range. Two of these are less than 3% fat. All are available in brown or white rolls and cooked freshly to order. Feeling more than a little related to Morgan Spurlock, I stride up to the counter and order all seven, eat in. All seven, my server Winnie asks? Am I sure? Because, bless her, she’s looking allaround me and is desperately looking to see if I’m concealing anyone to help me but is drawing a blank. She kindly offers to relay the sandwiches to my table as they are freshly prepared, so they don’t get cold. At least that’s her excuse. She really wants to see if I eat them all!

There are seven in the range, all with the cheesiest cringe making names imaginable. “Terribly Tasty Roast Beef and Mature Cheddar”, “A Bit Cheeky Cheese Ham and Pepperoni”, “Mmmmmm Low Fat Chicken Tikka”, “The Rather Lovely Sweet Chilli Chicken”, “Very Nice Low Fat Chicken Salad”, and “Gorgeous Grilled Veggie Melt”.

Modesty Mayo needs adding by the ladle full as well. The Ham and Cheese one that appeared seemed to be an after thought as it didn’t warrant getting printed on the bag and seemed to be the same recipe as the Bit Cheeky one without the Pepperoni.

There was probably a room absolutely full of terribly talented people from all over the globe who can say they contributed to the packaging on this one. A waxed inside paper pouch with extra fold over facility. Simple, cheap to produce but strangely for a hot product, no insulation whatsoever! This is hard to grasp. They go to all the trouble of making these freshly on the spot for you and then guarantee that it’s cold when you eat it, unless you consume it on the spot before you’ve even been given your change, as the heat seeps through the thin paper wrapper.

So, getting back to me attempting to do this, this leads me to another quite scary discovery. Each and every one is wrapped so tightly when it’s made (maybe in a vain attempt to keep the heat in) that one encounters a total steam-roller effect the moment you unravel the parcel.

The contents are compressed to such an extent that the overall effectis one of an extra steam injection, leaving behind an amalgamation of the tasty cheeky, rather lovely gorgeous ingredients stuck together with melted cheese. Shall we cut to the chase? Roast Beef with Mature Cheese, Tomatoes, Onion, Lettuce, Horseradish and Mustard Mayo. The beef is reminiscent of the beef we used to have at school, cut very thinly and cooked for a very long time. The cheese has melted into the lettuce and slightly cooked it which really isn’t nice, but apart from that this is definitely one to be eaten following a football match I would suggest, hitting the spot. 699 calories and 16.4 grams of fat.

The Sweet Chilli chicken is naughty in the sense that it is a rehash of their general purpose chicken burger which is cut in half for that “classy” feel and then smothered in sweet chilli sauce. Added to which is really nicely chunky crunchy cucumber, tomato, iceberg again and Hellmans Light. If only they used the rather delicious blackened chicken that’s in the Chicken Salad one this would be rather yummy. Something to do with the stodge (football) factor I suppose. 806 calories and 14.3 grams of fat.

Onto the Chicken Tikka. This is less than 3% fat and has a delicious yoghurt and mint dressing. The same thick slices of cucumber, tomato and lettuce make this a really good and filling eat despite being only 550 calories and only 4.7 grams of fat. The Tikka is well marinated and has authentic flavours. This one is well worth buying and I would happily eat it again. Yes, very good indeed.

The Grilled Veggie Melt is a good attempt at an interesting vegetarian hot option. Courgettes, red and yellow peppers, onions, cheese, lettuce and salsa. If I were a vegetarian I think I’d be glad of it but I still can’t accept the amalgamation of warm melted cheese mixed with raw lettuce. 748 calories and 16.1 grams of fat.

Cheese Ham and Pepperoni is the highest of them all at 850 calories and a whopping 30.9 grams of fat. It’s also one of the most expensive. I don’t like the Pepperoni which isn’t feisty but very soft and Mortadella like. I’d rather eat the Cheese and Ham version which is only a few less calories (805) but half the fat (14.6 grams).

The Chicken Salad is another winner. The chicken is slightly blackened which is difficult to get right both from a visual and flavour point of view as it’s also still moist. The same great tomato and cucumber and less than 3% fat again with Hellmans Light very good mayo. Only 456 calories and 6.4 grams of fat. So there you have it. In my opinion there is no question about it. McDonald’s have definitely achieved what they set out to do – produce very good filling and delicious low fat low calorie products. Imagine if they get the packaging right and extend the range even further to cold as well as hot. They really could steel a very big march on the whole industry. I’m watching this space.

‘They go to all the trouble of making these freshly on the spot for you and then guarantee that it’s cold when you eat it’

The Selection

Roast Beef and Cheddar £3.19

Sweet Chilli Chicken £2.99

Chicken Tikka £2.99

Veggie Melt £2.79

Cheese Ham and Pepperoni £3.19

Cheese and Ham £1.99

Chicken Salad £2.99

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