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McDonald's Olympics kickoff promotion: Menu items under 400 calories

July 27, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • An exterior view of the world's largest McDonald's restaurant and its flagship outlet in the Olympic Park in London.
An exterior view of the world's largest McDonald's restaurant… (Oli Scarff / Getty Images )

Just in time for the London Olympics, McDonald’s is kicking off a promotion that focuses not on quarter-pounders and caramel frappes but instead on “favorites under 400 calories.”

The chain has been getting grief for being one of the main sponsors of the games – something about a fast food giant whose products are often linked to obesity backing an event featuring the fittest, most health-conscious humans alive.

McDonald’s new menu platform may dial back some of those concerns. The chain plans to make nutritional information front in center in stores, isolating options such as 15-calorie apple slices, 280-calorie chicken McNuggets and 340-calorie Oreo McFlurries so that they’re more noticeable to customers in stores and drive-throughs.

The hope is to “help customers understand how their choices fit within their daily recommended calorie needs, particularly with portion sizing and eating in moderation,” said Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald’s USA.

How effective that strategy will be is unclear: The company claims that 80% of its menu choices in the U.S. are under the 400-calorie limit.

A California law already exists requiring chain restaurants to disclose their calorie counts; the federal Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon demand the same across the country.

Many fast food chains – see Domino’s Artisan pizzas and Lyfe Kitchen – are already hustling to offer more premium, healthful options as customers gravitate away from cheap menus toward meals that they perceive to have more value.

Saturday, McDonald’s will open its largest store ever in London. The branch, however, will be temporary, lasting only the duration of the games.

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