Monday, February 27, 2012

McDonald's v. School Lunches: Which is Healthier?

Proposed elementary school lunch, courtesy of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010:

Chef Salad
(1 cup romaine, .5 oz low-fat mozzarella,
1.5 oz grilled chicken) with Whole Wheat
Soft Pretzel (2.5 oz)
Corn, cooked (1/2 cup)
Baby Carrots, raw (1/4 cup)
Skim Chocolate Milk (8 oz)
Low Fat Ranch Dressing (1.5 oz)
Low Fat Italian Dressing (1.5 oz)

The nutrient composition of this lunch (info from

Carbohydrate: 138g
Fat: 16g
Protein: 37g
Fiber: 10g
Net carbohydrate (ie., digestible): 128g
Calories: 886
CPF composition by calories: approximately 62:17:16

Assumptions: 1 slice commercially prepared whole wheat bread, 1 oz carrots, low fat ranch dressing

Let's look at the nutrient composition of a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese, small fries and a diet drink or water:
Carbohydrate: 69g
Fat: 37g
Protein: 32 g
Fiber: 6g
Net carbohydrate: 63g
Calories: 740
CPF composition by calories: 37:17:45

To be sure, neither of these meals is health food. Nevertheless, if I had a child, I'd rather he eat the McDonald's meal. Why?


"Health: New Data on Sugar and Child Behavior," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, May 10, 1990.

"Study Sees a Sugar-Adrenaline Link in Children," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, March 15, 1995.

The Thirty-Day Low-Carb Diet Solution by Michael Eades, MD and Mary Dan Eades, MD. 2003.

Fat: It's Not What you Think by Connie Leas. 2008.

"Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines" by Sandro Drago et al, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, March 2006.

"Children, Parents and Obesity" by Julie Gunlock, National Affairs, Winter 2011.

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