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McDonald's New Soft Serve Isn't As Healthy As It Seems

Is Mickey D's revamped soft serve recipe a sweet surprise for ice-cream lovers?

Earlier this season, McDonald's decided that they were joining the healthy ice cream movement. The fast-food chain has recently been making some major changes to their recipes — from ridding their McNuggets of artificial ingredients and preservatives to swapping out trans-fat-laden margarine for real butter in their breakfast items — to keep up with customers' demands for cleaner ingredients. Darci Forrest, Senior Director of menu innovation, recently announced that soft-serve was the newest updated item.

In a company statement, Forrest explained that McDonald's has "been raising the bar […] on serving delicious food that our customers can feel good about eating." But if you're anything like us here at Eat This, Not That!, you were also probably wondering exactly how high they were raising that bar.

In the same statement, McDonald's explained that they decided to nix artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives from the soft serve recipe. There's no doubt about it, making these changes is a big deal. But is the new version as good as it sounds? Curious to see if the dessert changes would be just as stellar as the rest, we decided to compare the new soft serve recipe to the one McDonald's served up in 2015.

McDonald's Soft Serve: Then Vs. Now

mcdonalds vanilla soft serve

Comparing Ingredients

Old Vanilla Soft Serve Ingredients

Milk, Sugar, Cream, Nonfat Milk Solids, Corn Syrup Solids, Mono- and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Dextrose, Sodium Citrate, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Disodium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.

New Vanilla Soft Serve Ingredients

Milk, Sugar, Cream, Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate.

It was about time the chain dropped the long list of chemicals. Sodium phosphate and disodium phosphate — preservatives typically used to keep meats tender and moist — have been implicated in higher risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney health issues when consumed in large doses, according to a review in the Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc Journal.

The Golden Arches also switched to natural vanilla flavor from artificial, which isn't as much of a monumental move as you'd think. It is somewhat comforting knowing that natural vanilla is made from bacterial fermentation of rice bran whereas artificial vanilla flavor often comes from a chemically-treated byproduct of paper manufacturing called lignin, according to Michigan State University.

Finally, they rid their recipe of two sweeteners — corn syrup solids and dextrose (replacing one with plain-old corn syrup) — and tossed out nonfat milk solids.

Comparing Nutritional Profiles


Courtesy of Twitter/@McDonalds

Old Vanilla Soft Serve Nutrition

170 calories, 4.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 70 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (0 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 5 g protein

New Vanilla Soft Serve Nutrition

200 calories, 5 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (0 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 5 g protein

Mickey D's may have skimmed down the chemicals. But as for flat-belly friendly? It's still not your best option. To our surprise, this dessert got a bit more waist-widening. The recipe changes tacked on an additional 30 calories, 0.5 gram of both fat and saturated fat and 10 milligrams of sodium.

We were most surprised that even though McDonald's switched from having three sources of sweeteners to two, they managed to increase the ice cream's sugar count by 4 grams.

Moral of the story: we're all for the fact that the Golden Arches are ridding their menu of artificial ingredients and preservatives, but we hope they will also focus on the nutritional makeup of the foods in the future. So while this recipe change is good, don't let this soft serve's cleaner ingredient list act as an excuse to order a second cone.


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