Back in the early 2000’s, McDonald’s was synonymous with supersizing, grotesque methods of “food” preparation, fattening additives, and unnatural ingredients. Since then, McDonald’s has made some impressive health-centric changes—many of which, you might have never heard before. We’ve done the research and discovered these surprising things you never knew about the famous fast food joint. Read up, then don’t miss out on our essential guide: Every Menu Item at McDonald’s—Ranked!
McDonald’s Used To Own Chipotle
That’s right. One of the most notoriously unhealthy fast food chains once owned a 90 percent stake in one of the most health- and socially-conscious brands before selling it back in 2006, citing the Mexican restaurant as a “distraction.” The Big Mac chain invested in Chipotle back in 1998 when it only had 14 locations and helped it grow to 460 locations by the time it jumped ship.
Supposedly, McDonald’s wanted Chipotle to add drive-thrus to its restaurants, but in the end, Chipotle’s COO Gretchen Selfridge, told Bloomberg, “Bless their hearts, McDonald’s had a lot of great suggestions, and we were always polite about it. They really wanted us to do drive-thrus. They really wanted us to do breakfast. But we just really didn’t do any of that.”
The Food Looks Frighteningly Good for Its Age
April 10, 2010 was Day One of New York photographer Sally Davies’ “Happy Meal Project,” which documented what happens to fast food if left unrefrigerated under a glass case. Five months into the experiment, the Mickey D’s meal still looked edible while KFC fries bought and stored on the same day were white and furry with mold. As of January 2016, the hamburger and fries didn’t noticeably disintegrate.
Marion Nestle, chair of NYU’s food studies program, told Salon that McDonald’s would have to use “a lot of sodium propionate to prevent bacterial or mold growth.” Dr. Keith Warriner, a Canadian food scientist, explained that another reason might be due to the lack of moisture in the patty and bun during the steaming and toasting preparation. Without moisture or high humidity—ideal conditions for microbe growth—the burger dries out rather than rots. Even with a scientific explanation, it sounds so icky just thinking about it that we want a 7-day tea cleanse, stat!
McDonald’s Customers Love to Spend Time Doing Nothing
Using YouGov, a tool that pulls data on the typical customers of different companies, a survey examined what the average profile of a customer at McDonald’s looks like. The survey found that Mickey D’s customers tend to be females between the ages of 25 and 39 and have a discretionary income of at least $155 a month, as reported by Business Insider.
When it comes to what they do with their free time, McDonald’s customers’ favorite pastimes include sleeping, watching movies at home, playing video games, and “sitting around doing as little as possible.” They work in the wholesale and retail industries, law, and consumer goods. When it comes to describing themselves, McDonald’s customers say they’re motherly, loving, and bighearted. Oh, and most of them likely own a pet fish.
The Shamrock Shake Is Basically Corn Syrup
Don’t let nostalgia for this childhood favorite blind you from the cold facts: McDonald’s shake is blended with vanilla reduced-fat ice cream (made with corn syrup solids), shake syrup (main ingredient: high fructose corn syrup), and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. While the small shake has 65 grams of sugar, the large packs in a whopping 113 grams! We think you should shake it off.
There Really Are Diet-Expert-Approved Meals at McDonald’s
Shocking, right? By saying sayonara to mayo and fries, and choosing the lower-calorie options (such as the McDouble), you can still enjoy McDonald’s guilt-free. Just make sure to guzzle down water, steer clear of empty-calorie added sugars in salad dressings, and check out What Diet Experts Eat at McDonald’s.
Donald Trump Is a Frequent Customer
Our president loves the joint’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese so much that he asks White House chefs to whip ’em up. And we can’t say we’d recreate his go-to cheeseburger at home, too—the ‘wich clocks in at 770 calories and 45 grams of fat! If you thought that meal isn’t nutritionally ideal, find out What’s in Trump’s 2,400-Calorie McDonald’s Order.
The Ingredients in Those Picture-Perfect Ads Are Real
McDonald’s posted a video back in 2012 that uncovered the makings behind why their food looks so different in the advertising than what you get from the restaurant. Director of marketing Hope Bagozzi photographed a side-by-side comparison of a “fresh” quarter pounder with cheese to a burger prepared by a stylist using the same lighting. We were surprised to find out the ingredients used to make the picture perfect burgers are actually real, and they’re exactly the same as the ones on your plate.
The only difference? The stylist and Photoshop team spend several hours crafting the burger on the screen compared to the minute it takes to make the burger in your hand. Each pickle is hand-picked, ketchup is applied with a syringe, the cheese is sculpted using a heated palette knife, and all the colors are enhanced and imperfections are removed. As for the size difference? Supposedly, the box each burger comes in keeps the sandwich warm, creating a steam effect that makes the bun shrink.
Now Introducing… McDonald’s Next
According to Nielsen’s Global Health & Wellness Survey, about 50 percent of respondents are trying to lose weight and 75 percent of those people are planning to do so by changing their diets and focusing on more natural, fresh foods. In response to the world growing more health-conscious (in addition to sales declines), McDonald’s solution seems to be “McDonald’s Next.”
Instead of the iconic contrasting red and yellow decor and fluorescent lighting, one Mickey D’s location in Hong Kong was transformed into an eatery that features a silver interior, soft lighting, and an unexpected bonus: a salad bar. The seemingly misplaced offering is stocked with 19 ingredients including leafy greens, cheese, sauces, and the millennial favorite, quinoa. On top of that, McDonald’s Next offers free Wi-Fi, phone-charging stations, self-service kiosks, table service after 6 p.m., and premium coffee.
Happy Meals May Help You Lose Weight
The Happy Meal isn’t just for kids anymore. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, when a small incentive is offered with a meal, as is the case with the toys found in McDonald’s Happy Meals, people are motivated to limit their portion size. As it turns out, the combination of a half-sized portion and a non-food gift stimulates the same part of the brain—the area responsible for reward, desire, and motivation—as the full-sized portion alone.
The study also discovered that, regardless of hunger, most people will choose a half-sized portion of food if it’s paired with a toy or monetary prize rather than a full-sized portion at the same price. Even though they ate less, people who chose the incentivized option didn’t consume more calories later in the day. So, if you’re looking to shed some pounds, opt for the Happy Meal: you’ll get to keep your skinny jeans and have a new toy!
It’s Eliminating Antibiotics—But Only in Certain Meats
McDonald’s three-tiered plan made it clear that it’ll cut unnecessary antibiotic use in its poultry in U.S. markets by January 2018 and in all global markets by January 2027. But, the restaurant chain failed to give specific deadlines for pork and beef. “We remain committed to making meaningful reductions in the use of antibiotics in beef and pork and will share our progress on beef in 2018,” Marion Gross, senior vice president for McDonald’s North America supply chain, said in a statement.
You Can Order Breakfast All Day
There’s no denying it: people are lovin’ McDonald’s breakfast. And now they’re offering options such as McGriddles, McMuffins, Hotcakes and Sausage, and Fruit & Maple Oatmeal 24/7. Great news if you want a warm bowl of oats in the middle of the afternoon, right? Nope. McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal packs in 33 grams of sugar—more than you get in a bag of M&Ms! Unfortunately, this healthy-sounding breakfast food will start your day with a sugar high and a certain crash.
It Uses Cage-Free Eggs
McDonald’s has vowed to switch to cage-free eggs in its U.S. and Canada locations by 2025 in an effort to meet consumer demands. And with the All-Day Breakfast in full gear, that’s going to be a lot of eggs!
The Dollar Menu Is Returning
For all of you drive-thru junkies, ordering a cheap meal just got a lot thriftier. The beloved Dollar Menu, which was discontinued in 2013, is returning on January 4, 2018 to replace the current McPick 2 value menu. Despite the discounted menu’s name, you’ll need to shell out two or three bucks for some of the items. Take a Look at McDonald’s New Dollar Menu to find out the new price points of your favorite cheeseburgers and McCafe drinks.
It Serves Superfoods
Back in May 2015, the Golden Arches tested breakfast bowls at nine locations in Southern California, one of which included kale, as well as offered a whole wheat Kale & Feta “More-Ning McWrap” with baby kale, tomato, feta, and scrambled eggs. More recently, they debuted the Signature Sriracha 1/4 lb. Burger, which is packed with baby spinach and baby kale. Despite the nutritious addition of leafy greens, the spicy burger boasts a whopping 670 calories, 35 grams of fat, and 1,1010 milligrams of sodium.
The McRib Has No Rib
Despite the name of the back-by-popular-demand sandwich, there’s no actual rib in the McRib. Instead, the pork is pressed into the rib-like shape via a mold, just like Jell-O and slathered with sugary sauce, briny pickle slices, and onions. That sweet-and-salty combo makes for an irresistibly delicious sandwich—and a terribly fattening one. Just one sandwich boasts 480 calories and 22 grams of fat!
It Serves Up Mozzarella Sticks
While they’re still leaving the pizza to Pizza Hut, McDonald’s offers mozzarella sticks made with “100 percent real mozzarella.” According to their website, the three cheesy sticks pack in 190 calories and come with a tomato-based marinara sauce that we can guess contributes to the finger food’s 460 milligrams of sodium. Salt can hide in the sneakiest places, like in these 20 Restaurant Desserts with More Salt Than a Bag of Pretzels.
You Can BYOB
Build Your Own Burger, that is. in efforts to meet consumer demands and expectations, the Golden Arches is launching its “Experience of the Future” restaurant design, which will feature kiosk ordering, table service, mobile app functionality, curbside delivery, and a modernized interior design. The concept launched in 2015 and after a successful trial, made its way over to the U.S. The home of the Big Mac plans to implement this new design in most of its U.S.-based free-standing restaurants by 2020.
McDonald’s Used to Offer an Organic Burger
Ronald debuted his first organic burger—the “McB”—in Germany in 2015. While its patty was sourced entirely from organic beef, the toppings weren’t. Offered for a limited time only, the chain stopped selling the sandwich in early 2016.
The Chicken Nuggets Have Been Known to Melt
Chicken McNuggets are constantly under fire in the media, whether it’s because of pink slime claims, having more than 40 ingredients, or because they, uh, melt? Former McDonald’s employee and Reddit user DFunkatron explained, “I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long. They melted. Into a pool of liquid.”
Wondering why? It could be because the finely-ground chicken meat is combined with a water-based marinade of sodium phosphates, food starches, dextrose, citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract, and natural flavoring just to keep it bound together. No wonder pre-fry, defrosted nuggets melt—other than chicken, they’re mostly made up of additive water.
Drive-Thrus Are For Vehicles Only
Although you could’ve sworn you’ve seen your drunk friends getting served a meal via walking by the drive-thru, McDonald’s has a strict rule against that. “We have a policy that forbids us from serving people who are not in a ‘motorized vehicle’ in [the] drive-thru because it can be unsafe,” one employee admitted on Reddit. “Bicycles, electric scooters, and pedestrians cannot be served.”
It Serves 75 Burgers a Second
We know McDonald’s staff stacks a boatload of burgers each day, but have you ever wondered how many exactly? According to Mickey D’s Operations and Training Manual, the fast food joint sells “more than 75 hamburgers per second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day of the year,” Side Dish reports.
It Purchases the Most Meat and Potatoes
Ronald McDonald is the largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes in the country, according to Fast Food Nation. Just imagine how many Big Macs and World-Famous Fries people order each day!
McCafe Is Environmentally Friendly
Sourcing sustainable coffee protects our rainforests and supports our farmers and suppliers—which is exactly why McDonald’s plans to source 100 percent sustainable coffee by 2020. And the chain is actively working towards its goal each day: Since 2012, it increased its restaurants’ volume of certified-sustainable java by about 63 percent.
It Believes in Recycling
McDonald’s is aware of how many oil-drenched paper bags and French fry cartons it goes through each day—and that all that packaging has to end up somewhere (i.e. a landfill). That’s why it set a goal to recycle all guest packaging in 100 percent of McDonald’s restaurants by 2025. “We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviors vary city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change,” the company said.
The Big Mac Comes in 3 Sizes
The legendary burger with two beef patties, three slices of bread, and special sauce is now available in a trio of sizes for all stages of hunger. The Grand Mac and Mac Jr. first made their debut in 2016 and are now available across menus nationwide. Check out which sandwich won our seal of approval in our report, McDonald’s Brought Back 2 Popular Burgers—How Unhealthy Are They?
You Can Slim Down the McFlurry
A regular-size McFlurry packs in 630 calories, 22 grams of fat, and over three days’ worth of sugar. Is that nutritional nightmare really worth a few bites of vanilla soft serve studded with M&Ms? If you can’t ignore a nagging sweet tooth, opt for either the snack-size McFlurry, which boasts 420 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 58 grams of sugar (yikes!). Or better yet, go for a kiddie cone with M&Ms, which packs in just 215 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 38 grams sugar.
The Frappes Are Worse Than Starbucks’ Frappuccinos
We all know not to order the Frappuccinos at Starbucks, but how does the popular blended beverage compare to McDonald’s copycat version? A small (12-ounce) McCafé Caramel Frappé packs in 450 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 57 grams of sugar while a tall (12-ounce) Caramel Frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream at Sbux clocks in at 300 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 46 grams of sugar.
There’s a Fresh Fry Hack
Want super fresh fries and to slash your risk of high blood pressure? Just ask for your french fries to be made without salt. The staff will end up making you a fresh batch and you might wind up waiting a bit longer for your food, but we’ll take the extra wait time for crispy fries over soggy spuds any day.
The Parfait Isn’t as Healthy as It Seems
While a fruity parfait may sound like the best option at the golden arches, you might want to sneak a peek at its nutrition panel before placing your order. Although the Fruit ‘N Yogurt parfait comes layered with low-fat yogurt, granola, and fresh berries, the snack barely provides any satiating protein or fiber and has a whopping 22 grams of sugar. Yogurt is one of our favorite high-protein, low-calorie foods for weight loss, but definitely not in this offering. If you build your own parfait with a 5.3-ounce container of Chobani’s plain Greek yogurt and top it off with a cup of chopped strawberries, you’ll win four times more protein and three times more fiber for about 20 calories less than Mickey D’s cup.
You Can Score a Big Mac For a Third of the Price
A Big Mac usually runs for about four to five dollars, depending on your location, but you can slash that price tag by about a third if you follow one simple rule. Just order a McDouble with Mac Sauce and lettuce. You’ll skip the middle bun (it’s full of empty carbs, anyway) and pay about a dollar and change.