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Published:April 27th, 2006 04:39 EST
Super Size Me Now!

Super Size Me Now!

By Melissa Austria

Alan, a 29 year-old, usually takes his lunch break at the McDonald`s near his work and orders a number one super-sized combo meal. By the end of this year, Alan Tablada will be able to refrain from some calories and spare some change because the question, Would you like that super-sized? " will soon no longer be part of the American slang.

The nation`s most famous fast food chain is pulling back from its traditional fare of bigger and bigger burgers and fries in a response to consumer desires for healthier foods.  McDonald`s is saying goodbye to its super-size fries and drinks due to the increase in obesity among many Americans.

Oversized portions, empty calorie food and drinks and lack of physical activity are the reasons for the increase in obesity, " said Samantha Scott, RD, LD, an outpatient dietician at Sibley Memorial Hospital. 

In the United States, obesity has increased during the past 20 years.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate that an estimated 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. A person is considered overweight if he or she weighs more than 15 percent of the normal weight.  And anything above that is considered obesity.

  I think that individuals need to take responsibility for their food choices, instead of blaming the food industry, " said Scott.

After two lawsuits that claimed McDonald`s hid the health risks of eating Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets, the restaurant has decided to support a more balanced lifestyle for its customers.  Even though the two New York lawsuits were thrown out in federal court last year, McDonald`s is facing public pressure from the nation.

I don`t think this decision will make a big difference, because if someone wants a larger size of fries, they can always order two, " Tablada, a McDonalds customer said. 

The super-size option began in 1994.  It included an upgrade of a seven ounce carton of fries and a 42 ounce soda drink.  The fries are cooked in 100 percent rap seed oil and then salt is added after cooking. 

It`s not really good for you but it tastes so good, it`s addictive, " said Patrice Stewart, a McDonald`s customer.
The restaurant offers four different carton sizes for its customers.  The regular size fries are 206 calories.  The medium size is 293 calories, the large is 412 calories and the super-size is 486 calories.

Portion sizes at most restaurants are out of control, " said Scott. Although the large fries, which is only one ounce less than the super-size fries will still be available, McDonalds is offering a healthier menu.  
McDonald`s has added a few diet alternatives to its menu.  The restaurant has enhanced its salad menu with the bacon ranch salad, Caesar salad and California cobb salad.  Each salad allows the customer to choose grilled or crispy chicken, with several low fat dressings such as balsamic vinaigrette.

I recommend the Caesar salad, " said Denzel John, a McDonald`s employee at the University of Maryland, College Park. Each salad includes mixed greens, grape tomatoes and shaved carrots.  Although McDonald`s is not famous for its salads, the healthier menu is becoming familiar to its customers.

The bacon ranch salad doesn`t taste as bad as I thought it would and it`s convenient when I`m in a hurry, " Jennifer Chang, a McDonald`s customer said.

Other nutritional add-ons are the Strawberry Yoghurt Burst, the one percent milk and the Apple Dippers, which are new items for the happy meal.  The menu also includes fruit-n-yogurt parfaits. 
Customers can also customize a menu item to meet their nutritional needs by requesting unsalted fries or no mayonnaise on their sandwiches.
Other well-known fast food restaurants are also leaning toward the new trend.  Wendy`s menu has stayed away from the traditional Caesar salad and has created five different salads such as the BLT salad, Mandarin salad, and the Taco Supreme salad.
Burger King`s menu includes the Garden and Caesar salad.  Both can be served with either tender crisp or grilled chicken.

I really don`t like salads because they don`t fill me up, " said Tablada.

Sandwiches are also becoming part of the healthy fast food diet.  Fast food restaurants such as Subway and Arby`s are recognized for its sandwich menu.  Arby`s menu includes six market fresh sandwiches such as the BLT sandwich, chicken salad sandwich or the roast turkey and swiss sandwich.  Each sandwich is made with honey wheat bread. 

Many people have busy lifestyles and depend on fast food because it is so convenient, " Janelle Cruz, a registered nurse from Georgetown Hospital said. 

The World Health Organization states that no single factor is responsible for the increasing rates of overweight and obesity in adults and children and this maybe caused by cultural or economic factors. 

Cruz also said that moderation and portion control " are two important factors in dieting. The 13,000 plus McDonald`s restaurants believe that slimming down its menu will lower the calories of its customers.

The reason why people have a hard time with fad dieting is because it doesn`t teach long-term lifestyle modification and that is the key to keeping the weight off, " said Scott.  Limiting the portion size and trimming down the menu will lower calories for many people but for some it won`t transform their diet.

Derek Brewington, a McDonald`s customer states, I don`t think it`s going to help.  If they want to lose weight, they wouldn`t be going to McDonald`s in the first place. " 

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