The Neighborhood Parents Network of Chicago coordinated a dine-and-discussion workshop to help families learn how they can make nutritious choices from the McDonald’s menu. The owner of the McDonald’s welcomed us in the children’s play area and introduced us to the guest speaker, a nutritionist, as well as to other McDonald’s representatives. We were divided into two groups; one stayed to listen to the speaker while the other took a tour of the back of the restaurant.Though I have had many jobs throughout my life, I have never worked at a McDonald’s and wondered how much they would really show us in the kitchen. Well, let me tell you, we got the full tour! We started in the cooler where everything was perfectly labeled and organized. What struck me the most was how spotless everything was even in the corners! I don’t know if my house would pass the same inspection requirements.

We learned about how they prepared the food at each station and were very thorough about how they timed every step of their processes. The timing insured quality and they discarded all items that were not sold within a certain time limit. They explained that they keep a log of the food that was discarded and adjust how much food was prepared in order to keep waste to a minimum. They also showed us how the food was rotated in the refrigerators making sure the food that needed to be sold first was toward the front of the fridge. They call this FIFO – first in, first out!

After our tour of the kitchen, the nutritionist shared information about how parents can customize the menu to make healthy choices for their family. Fruit, salads, yogurt, grilled chicken wraps, skim milk, oatmeal…and the list goes on. McDonald’s is also making strides to reduce calories and sodium throughout the menu items. You can now see a calorie count on the menu board which helps customers with their choices as well.

I also like that you can find information about McDonald’s choices on the Healthy Dining Finder which is a site that provides detailed nutritional information about restaurants around the country.

At the end of the presentation, we were treated to a meal that was tasty and I was happy to find out my chicken sandwich was under 400 calories! They also sent us home with a bag of goodies including an apron, coupons, a bag, and more.

Check in your neighborhood groups for opportunities such as this one to learn more about how restaurants are sharing information with their customers. Many restaurant owners are happy to work with their guests so you might even be able to organize something on your own.

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