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Is the option of healthy choices in fast food restaurants purely a marketing ploy?

Since the introduction of healthy choices at fast food restaurants such as McDonalds there has been a multitude of marketing of their inclusion on the menu, but the truth is that customers are still choosing the unhealthy options.

The Cancer Council of NSW recently conducted a study throughout 20 McDonald’s Restaurants where they observed the meals purchased by customers over a two week period. The study concluded that only 1% of the customers choose a healthy meal. 1449 meals were sold but only 2 in any one store were deemed healthy.

Backing up the Cancer Council of NSW’s research is a study by Griffith University which observed 1025 purchases from McDonalds and Subway restaurants during lunchtime trade over two months. In their study only 2.5% of customers opted for a ‘nutritionally-promoted item’, such as McDonald’s Tick Approved meals or Subway’s Six Grams of fat or less.

Some explanation for this continued trend could be summed up by Nutritionist and Chef, Zoe Bingley-Pullin when she said ‘McDonald’s is an indulgence food and the majority of people that go there are buying something because they see it as a treat’.

Yes it can be argued that a study of under 5000 people is too small a sample size but unless McDonalds can provide actual breakdowns we have little to go by.

While the studies are showing that the healthy choices just aren’t heading out the door, McDonald’s itself claim that the items would not be on the menu if they didn’t sell. Maybe coincidental the sample area consisted of people exclusively purchased their unhealthy choices. Common sense can make some sense of this. Fast food restaurants have implemented healthy food choices to garner favour with the population (and it makes for great advertising copy) but on the other hand – who goes to a fast food restaurant in search of a healthy meal? It’s like going to Tae Kwon Do class to perform meditation.

You just don’t do that – well only between 1 – 2.5% of us do. Being a massive corporation, one would need to ask why would a product be maintained if it represented such a minute percentage of sales. It really begs the question, are McDonalds developing a social conscious and keeping an unprofitable product range, the figures are not representative of actual sales breakdowns or it’s just a marketing ploy designed to raise their reputation and ward off the backlash towards fast food?

When it comes right down to it though – it is our responsible what we choose to eat, feed our children.

So assuming that the customers of a fast food restaurant are there for a treat and not a healthy meal, perhaps the best option is to make the choices better for you. Rather than trying to change a customer’s choice – make the choice a healthy one by reducing the salt, sugar and fat contents of the products they are still going to order in that type of environment. Not meaning to single McDonald’s Restaurant out but, did you know they only have 4 food items on their entire meal that don’t contain sugar? Can you guess what they are?

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