More than a year ago, McDonald’s introduced an oatmeal that the New York Times’s Mark Bittman roundly criticized. “From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong,” he wrote in his column; “from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right.” The same can be said for this year’s new breakfast offering, the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal. The problem is that the company is expert at convincing consumers that whatever they market as wholesome is actually wholesome.
McDonald’s aims “to show families how the new oatmeal fits into a ‘wholesome start’ breakfast,” cites the press release announcing the launch of the product. “Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal features fresh, juicy blueberries and crunchy walnuts along with a tasty hint of real banana. Made to order, McDonald’s new Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal provides two servings of whole grain and about a quarter cup of blueberries for 290 calories” and “is the perfect choice for your morning.”
It would seem that the new breakfast offering is the very model of wholesome simplicity: blueberries and walnuts sprinkled atop banana-infused oatmeal. Nothing more, nothing less.
The TV commercial for the new product features two women having breakfast at a McDonald’s. The older woman asks the younger:
“What are you eating there?”
“Oh, it’s their new oatmeal.”
“Well, what’s all that la-di-da?”
“Fresh blueberries, walnuts…”
“In oatmeal? In my day oatmeal had two ingredients: oat and meal, and not all that fancy-pants what-not.”
Here again the suggestion is that the only ingredients in the product are “oat and meal,” along with “fancy-pants” fresh blueberries, walnuts, and a bit of banana.
But what’s really in the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal?
A lot of sugar, for one thing. 21 grams of it. In fact, four out of the five allegedly “wholesome” breakfast offerings at McDonald’s have a lot of sugar. The list of ingredients for the oatmeal begins as follows: “whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, dried crushed banana, food starch-modified, natural flavor (wheat and botanical source), salt, spices.”
Sugar as the second ingredient to start your day? A handful of blueberries and some walnut bits can’t compensate for the load of sugar in the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal. Many of us now know just how toxic sugar can be, given the obesity epidemic and new research from the likes of Robert Lustig and his team at the University of California, San Francisco. But the sugar habit is a very hard one to break, and this is something McDonald’s and other food companies are quick to exploit.
Photo Credit: isthisREALLYmylife?