Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lunch time : In or Out?

I know we are all busy with life, but it's important to get educated on what goes into our body (and our children's bodies).  I took the time put off laundry  and decided to do a cost and nutritional analysis on a meal from home vs a well know Happy Meal from McDonald's.

Now, let's not forget McDonald's just revamped their kids meal to be "healthier" so these stats are on the new and "improved" information. They eliminated full fat milk, caramel dipping sauce, added apples to each meal and reduced the size of the fries included.  I still think it's ridiculous that most McDonald's will still charge you for a drink, even if you want to skip the sugar loaded beverage and save some pennies.  

I have pretty much severed my relationship with McDonald's.  It really was my only burger/fries joint I frequented. I think it was second in line with my Diet Coke love affair. I am down to going there about 2-3 times a year (I think that's a huge improvement over going there 5 times a week for a Diet Coke!) and sometimes I don't even order from there, just the kids (yes, I think they get more excited about the damn toy and box than anything else). Makes you wonder...what if they did away with the toy??? Hmmmm...a girl can dream, right?

Ok, let's get down to business.

The nutritional information I am about to show you is for the following:

4 piece nuggets with 1 ranch dipping sauce
1 kid size fries with 1 packet of ketchup 
1 tiny bag of apples
1 apple juice

McDonald's Happy Meal
Calories: 530
Fat: 29g
Sodium: 730mg
Sugar: 28g
Protein: 10g

NOTE:  To make it a mighty meal, you can add (in addition to the above) 220 calories, 12g fat, 270mg sodium, and 6 g protein. Then you probably add more dipping sauce too! Yikes. This is probably the amount of food my daughter would need to feel full at McDonald's.

My at home meal consisted of 5 hormone free whole breast chicken nuggets (with Bolthouse Farms Ranch dressing), organic mac and cheese, organic carrots, organic grapes, and WATER!

At Home Meal
Calories: 475
Fat: 14.7g
Sodium:  920mg
Sugar: 15.5g
Protein:  29.45g

Let's talk for a minute (if you have time to keep reading)...

Shockingly the calories were not that far off: 530 vs 475(mine)
My meal had quite a bit more food and the nutrients in my food well surpassed the Happy Meal. Compared to the Mighty Meal mine came in 275 less.

My meal was 14.3g less in fat. (26.3g less than MM)  Not so shocking.

My meal was 190mg more than the Happy Meal. 80 less than the MM.

I will be honest, I don't use the boxed Mac and Cheese too often because of all the sodium in it. This was the Annie's 25 % less sodium and it was still really high. My 4 year old loves the bland taste of this stuff! Yuck. My favorite for overall taste is Back to Nature brand.

With any boxed or frozen food you will have lots of sodium (especially if you are eating no preservatives)!

The chicken I used was from Whole Foods, they were 
Bell and Evan's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets. The ones I purchases are not organic but noted as "raised without antibiotics". I did try one and they were delicious. Probably the best frozen chicken I have had. 

I usually only buy fresh organic chicken. Now that I care about where my food comes from it makes me think WAY too much about the chicken I am consuming and in turn I eat way less meat in general. Here's a video if you wish to know more about Bell and Evan's as a company: Bell & Evan's

Mine was 12.5 less than the McDonald's meal. 8.5 of my total sugar was from carrots and grapes, so it was a natural source of sugar.

Here's where the big difference is...My meal had almost 20 grams MORE in protein than the standard Happy Meal. Keeping the kids feeling fuller, longer.

Now, let's get to cost.

Many would argue that they "can't" afford to eat healthy. Hold on to your seats my friends and send this to your friends that are narrow minded on this issue because I've got news for them....

Total cost of a Chicken Nugget Happy Meal at McDonald's is $3.99 + tax =$4.27  (Mighty nugget meal $4.81 with tax)

Cost of my meal (to feed 3 kids)= $3.50

That's a savings of $2.33-$3.93 (give or take) for that one meal.
That can really start to add up.

You should note that my fruits and veggies were ORGANIC and even purchased at Whole Paycheck, oops I mean, Whole Foods.  So you can assume if I were being frugal for this exercise that my meal would come in way under the Happy Meal price.  My foods did not have added colors or preservatives.

I challenge you to this experiment. Get your kids involved. Teach them how to read labels. This is a great math lesson in the making! I think we will do another one very soon!

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