Fast-food giant McDonald’s has been up against a wall in recent years as consumers have demanded healthier food options, not just from them but food producers in general. New salads, grilled chicken options and even fruit as side dishes have graced more of the chain’s menus. Now in New Zealand, Weight Watchers-approved menu items will be available. “The partnership is a reflection of the work we have put into changing the face of our business and menu,” says Mark Hawthorne, McDonald’s New Zealand Managing Director.
It’s the only McDonald’s market in the world to offer these menu items with Weight Watchers’, a world leader amongst diet brands, seal of approval. Three meal combinations are available for a total of 6.5 Weight Watchers POINTS. Weight Watchers Points are a proprietary calculation based on a food’s calories, fat and fiber; the lower the value, the “healthier” it is for you. These combos are as follows, keep in mind these are from the New Zealand menu:
- Filet-O-Fish, Garden Side Salad and medium diet drink or Pump mini
- 6 Pack Chicken McNuggets (includes nugget sauce or ketchup), Garden Side Salad and medium diet drink or Pump mini
- Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap, medium diet drink or Pump mini
“We were able to include some of our most popular items because of the many changes we have made over the years. For instance, the switch to a healthier canola blend cooking oil means menu items such as the Filet-O-Fish and Chicken McNuggets contain 60% less saturated fat than they did six years ago,” says Mark Hawthorne. “We’ve also introduced salads, high fibre tortilla wraps, seared chicken, reduced sugar levels in buns and sodium levels in some dipping sauces. All these changes have made it possible for us to meet Weight Watchers requirements.”
This seems to fall in line with the overall philosophy of Weight Watchers, that there are no “good foods” or “bad foods” when it comes to dieting or weight loss. Instead, Weight Watchers has traditionally promoted a message that you can eat whatever you like, as long as it’s within your daily POINTS range.
“Our philosophy at Weight Watchers is that all food can be part of a healthy, balanced diet taking into account portion control and frequency. We know McDonald’s is one of New Zealand’s largest food and beverage providers and a popular choice for New Zealanders, and we’ve worked in partnership with them to help guide people when they’re eating out,” says Emma Stirling, Weight Watchers Nutrition Advisor Australasia.
While we can appreciate the efforts McDonald’s has made to improve the nutritional value of its food, as well as Weight Watchers’ “all things in moderation” approach, it still seems a little backward. At the end of the day, a fried fish sandwich is still not “good” for you; as fried chicken nuggets and diet soda aren’t either. The meal is still primarily comprised of processed foods.
Based on U.S. nutritionals, the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich has 380 calories and 18 grams of fat. Add to that the calories in the dressing that goes on the salad and the beverage, not to mention the fat, and this isn’t exactly a healthy, balanced meal.
In the U.S. the Applebee’s Weight Watchers menu has been wildly popular, serving grilled fish options, whole grain pastas and lean entree salads. Maybe future iterations of the McDonald’s Weight Watchers menu will seek to include less fried food and more healthful options.
We contacted Weight Watchers and our question regarding a similar move in the U.S. was not immediately answered.