McDonald's Menu Boards To Reveal How Many Calories Are Going Along For The Ride With That Big Mac

You’re going to have a lot harder time avoiding the plain truth of how many calories you’re ingesting along with that Big Mac and fries at a McDonald’s near you soon. The company announced that it will now be posting the caloric content of all its items on menu boards and drive-thru menus across the U.S. It’s a big move for the fast food industry, one that other chains could feel compelled to follow its lead.

Customers and health advocates have been pushing for more transparency when it comes to nutritional information at fast food restaurants, and it seems McDonald’s is going forward with this plan in order to please consumers and critics of its food.

“It’s the right thing to do,” says Greg Watson, senior vice president of menu innovation for McDonald’s, according to USA Today. “It’s what a leader would do.”

The changes will go into effect next week, and could be a preemptive move by McDonald’s, as the White House’s health care reform includes a proposal that would make chain restaurants post calories on menus anyway in the future.

And if McDonald’s does it, all the other chains will likely go down that road as well. Panera already made the switch to showing calorie contents back in April 2010.

This isn’t the only thing McDonald’s is doing to try and please the health-conscious consumers out there, said a rep. Soon there will be more seasonal fruit and vegetables on the menu, along with possibly adding-white breakfast sandwich on a whole grain English muffin as an alternative to things like hash browns and sausage and egg McMuffins.

Next up? Perhaps branded blindfolds for those of us who just don’t want to know the truth.

*Consumerist reader Shawn points us to his blog, where he’s posted a picture of the new calorie-count menu boards in action at his local McDonald’s. Ahead of the trend!

McDonald’s to post calories for items on menu boards [USA Today]

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  1. Sarek says:

    Good information to have. But I can barely read their menu boards now, especially at the drive-thru, they’re so crammed with small print. So how will this new information be legible?

    • rstark says:

      It’s already happened here in Utah and they’ve changed the menu boards to white, green lettering that is much easier to read with larger fonts. I was rather impressed, a huge jump from the crammed black and white boards.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      So how will this new information be legible?

      New government-mandated LARGE PRINT, which will lead to government-mandated maximum signage sizes, which will lead to government-mandated simplified menu item names, which will lead to government-mandated fast food product standardization, which will lead to government-mandated fast food price standardization, which will lead to us going to the nearest generic fast food outlet and plopping down $5 for a heated cube of generic vegetarian simulated beef product (dipping sauces not available).

      So start saving extra dipping sauce packets now. I already have an entire crisper drawer full because I saw this slippery slope coming a long time ago.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      Mc Donalds does not quality as “food” so its hard to see why these regs apply. It shooed be reclassified as “Processed Industrial Waste Food Substitute”.

  2. Caprica Six says:

    “white breakfast sandwich on a whole grain English muffin..”

    I’m sure you meant egg white but I always liked a brown breakfast sandwich. I mean I like brown rice versus white. Does that make me a rice-ist?

  3. dolemite says:

    You know what would be much cooler? If it calculated calories on the register and printed out a total at the bottom.

    • STXJK says:

      If people even looked at receipts. Or if it would stop them from consuming their meal anyway.

    • ywBryan says:

      Then it would be too late if you ordered a caloric “gotcha” item.

      I ordered a medium cole slaw in lieu of a small fries at Chick-fil-A recently, with the mistaken impression that cabbage automatically means healthy and deep-fried means unhealthy. After eating it, I found out that the fries have 300 and the slaw has 360. I would have rather had the fries, but oh well – live and learn. Mayo- go figure.

      Maybe as you complete the purchase, they could summarize before you pay. “That will be $14.23 for those 2104 calories.”

    • hexx says:

      Good idea about adding it to the receipt, but I don’t look at receipts… In fact I would love to not get a receipt. It’s 2012 — why can’t we get digital receipts for purchases?

      McDonalds has added nutrition information to the product containers, which I applaud.

      • nishioka says:

        > why can’t we get digital receipts for purchases?

        What’s a digital receipt? Is it e-mailed to you? Because if that’s the case, I’ll stick to paper receipts. Last thing I need is to give some company contact information that they can use to send digital receipts to me, and also spam.

    • MaytagRepairman is stealing socks while fixing your dryer. says:

      Does Burgerville still do that? I only get to go there about twice a year.

  4. Kuri says:

    Question: Is this somehow going to make patrons bring any fucks to give?

    • who? says:

      Actually, yeah, some people have some fucks to give. All the chains have been doing this in California for a couple of years. What I’ve seen is that people were originally surprised by some of the calorie counts, and switched what they ordered, and the restaurant responded by changing up what they served in response. An example would be Starbucks, where everyone was caught off guard when they found out that the “healthy” looking things, like the zucchini nut muffins, had way more calories than the cheese danish and such. When people started ordering the lower calorie pastries, Starbucks started offering a larger selection of items that were smaller portions. Little cake thingies, muffins that were the size of tennis balls instead of softballs, etc. Not sure how that works at McDonalds, but there are some people who actually care, and the signage is for them, not, apparently for you.

    • NickRayko says:

      Do we get change for those fucks, or do they have to be exact?

  5. STXJK says:

    Good on McD’s for posting calorie counts. Now I’d like to see them reveal GMO ingredients, addition of fillers like cellulose (sawdust) to boost fiber counts, and country of food origin.

    McDonald’s: “Mmmmm….tastes like rainforest…”

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      “reveal GMO ingredients” – no, because that would only lend legitimacy to the fallacious assertion that it matters. And/or that everything else isn’t GMO anyway…everything is GMO.

      As for your assertion that they are using sawdust in their food…don’t suppose you have a credible citation for that?

      Don’t care about country of origin either. Everybody has a right to make a living.

      • STXJK says:

        I care about country of origin when it takes more energy in petroleum to get ingredients to me then are contained in the calories in the food.

        Cellulose citation: http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/lifestyle/food-drink/10-brands-put-wood-their-food (McDonald’s is slide 4)

        GMO opinions are all over the place. I don’t care what an individual thinks about them, but we have the right to know if they are contained in a food item so we each can decide individually to consume that item, or not. Truth in labeling, please.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          From your link:

          “Cellulose is virgin wood pulp whose variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) are deemed safe for human consumption by the FDA, but the agency sets no limit on the amount that can be used in food products, as it does with other contaminants.”

          The last word being inserted with purpose by that site…if the stuff is safe to eat, it’s not a “contaminant.” Nothing else in there seems to indicate there’s any issue with it.

          As for the GMO, the thing is that all that will do is inflame an already irrational “war” of the ignorant against reality. “Truth in labeling” isn’t the issue…the fact is that GMO is irrelevant, and any assertion to the contrary serves no valid purpose.

          • STXJK says:

            It is your belief and assertion that GMO is irrelevant – there are many others who believe and assert otherwise, and want to know what is in their food so they can make their own choices. This isn’t the place to discuss it though.

            I never said cellulose was a “contaminant.” However it is essentially devoid of nutrition, other than a bulk fiber filler, unlike vegetables and fruits which contain cellulose naturally. I’m sure people would like to know that they’re eating sawdust.

            Again, truth in labeling, and let each individual decide for him/herself. I respect your rights to your beliefs and assertions and your resultant choices, please respect my right to mine.

            • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

              I believe in truth in labeling too. I want to know if my food has been handled by Muslims or Jews, since that would contaminate it. McDonalds should include that information on their menus as well. I’m happy to support requiring GMOs to be labeled, so that you can know to avoid them. I’m sure you will support the labeling necessary to ensure that my beliefs are respected as well.

              • YouDidWhatNow? says:

                That’s it exactly. Your “beliefs” are invalid. You can choose to believe in them if you want to, but you don’t get to force the rest of the world to pretend they’re valid right along with you.

                What you’re asking for isn’t “truth in labeling” – you want “pander to my irrational unsobstantiated fears in labeling.”

                So no.

  6. samonela says:

    John Pinette comes to mind…

  7. Ben says:

    Now with more molecules!

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    Good on McD’s. As the article mentioned, Panera has done this for some time. The calorie info is easy to read and understand (at least inside the store on the sign boards). And yes, it has caused me to change my mind about what I’m ordering, (can be several hundred calories differences between similar sounding salads).

    In my area, McD’s has been promoting that their Egg McMuffin is under 300 calories. Who’d a thunk so relatively low-cal with what’s inside it?

    Also, Panera, I love you and beg you to contact me about opening a 2nd store in Skokie, staggering good location, we NEED you (on knees begging). I will assist in handling the wheelbarrows full of cash you will earn in what is practically a restaurant desert.

    • hexx says:

      I have noticed the calorie information at Panera. It hasn’t necessarily made me rethink my choices, but it can be surprising to see the calorie count on certain items…

    • Kuchen says:

      I like Panera’s menu board calorie counts, too, and it really does affect my decision on what to order. I also really like the nutrition calculators on Chipotle’s website. I love, love, love Chipotle, but I have been trying (successfully) to lose weight this summer and was afraid to eat there. It’s not going to be 100% accurate at a place like Chipotle, but it is a pretty good estimate.

  9. wiggie2gone says:

    My McD’s is already doing this. It’s kind of nice to know how many miles I need to run to at least make up for the indulgence.

  10. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    “senior vice president of menu innovation” — I love that title. Sounds like something out of Seinfeld.

  11. Therulnig says:

    McDonald’s here has been promoting an “under 400 calories” initiative here. There is a section of the drive-thru board that lists all of the menu items under that calorie amount and the bags indicate some contest involving certain foods on that list.

    I just thought it was sad that the list was like 7 items long. I said sad, not surprised.

  12. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Doesn’t matter. No one is going to change their eating habits. People eat what they *want* to eat. If you want to eat a Big Mac, you’re going to eat a Big Mac…no matter what.

  13. hexx says:

    I think it’s great that McDonald’s is being proactive about this. Posting the calorie information is a good thing… However I don’t think having this information on the menu board will change ordering habits. I do think some people will rethink their meal, but most will ignore this information and order their favorites.

  14. Stickdude says:

    The cynical side of me thinks that they’re only doing this because, based on their experience in states where calorie counts are already mandatory (like California), they’ve determined that posting calorie counts has no impact on sales – thus, there’s no downside – only positive PR upside.

  15. osuracoon says:

    They’ve already done this at the one by my house…I noticed it the other morning when I went through the drive thru in the morning. It’s good that they’re doing it, but I can’t say it deterred me any. I wanted that Sausage McMuffin, dammit :)

  16. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    This is the law in Vermont for most restaurants.

    • NickRayko says:

      What’s included in “most”? I haven’t noticed it on my visits to family earlier this year, but we weren’t in any chain/fast food/”casual” dining places, either.

      • Laura Northrup says:

        New York, too. I believe they determine it by the number of outlets the restaurant has. Like, if they have more than four,* that makes them a chain and they have to post the calories.

        * – I made this number up

  17. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    There really isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with a Big Mac as long as you don’t eat two of them for every meal, every day.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      There’s no place here for rational information like that. Now run along and rage senselessly about something trivial, like a good little girl.

  18. fleef says:

    another complaint about those menu boards- I wish they’d go back to the old system where actual individual items are listed, instead of everything being in that “meal” format. This is at every single fast food place too, I don’t want to buy a whole stinkin’ “meal” with a fries and drink, but you’d think it was an impossibility with those stupid menu boards. Please go back to the OLD format, where a person can price what ONE burger or burrito or whatever would cost?

    • Therulnig says:

      The McDonalds (and similar places) here usually have a price on the opposite side of the “Meal” price that is very tiny and reads “Burger Only” or something along those lines. The problem is the “Burger Only” price is usually only $1 less than the meal. During some sales it is more expensive.

      I’ve went a McDonalds at breakfast before and the person told me I don’t want the biscuit I want the biscuit and hash brown combo. When I said can you just leave the hashbrown out? Her reply – “No, if you don’t want the hash brown just throw it away as you leave..it’s cheaper to buy it with the hash brown though”

  19. oldtaku says:

    ‘You’re going to have a lot harder time avoiding the plain truth of how many calories you’re ingesting along with that Big Mac and fries’

    Oh no, people are masters at this. Do it trivially. Posting calorie counts doesn’t help anyone who isn’t already eating healthy anyhow.

  20. CrackedLCD says:

    More information is always more better, but I am sceptical that the changes to eating habits witnessed by other commentators at Starbucks and Panera will translate to the typical McDonald’s patron. I mean, if you’re eating at this place, you already have no shame… I mean, you already know you want an indulgence.

    I have a handy dandy nutrition programme on my phone, but it didn’t stop me from pigging out at Hardee’s the other day. (If you must know, I had a hot ham n’ swiss, a charbroiled chicken club AND a 1/3 lb. bacon thickburger. No fries, no drink. That was all I ate that day. 1780 calories and enough fat and sodium to make a Bloomberg cry.)