Giveaway Winner and Random Sunday Musings

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on February 28, 2011

Hi Everyone! I hope all of you are enjoying the weekend – I definitely am! We were supposed to get horrible weather in the Bay Area this weekend – rain, freezing cold – even the potential of snow (which I have to admit would have been pretty cool). I’m not sure what happened – but it’s been nothing but sunny and gorgeous here (still chilly but nowhere near what the forecast was predicting!) And this sunny, springtime weather has put me in kind of a lazy, rambling mood. I’ve never done a post like this before – where there are multiple, unrelated foodie topics – so I figured I’d try it out today.

First off – I have to announce the winner from my Fearless Chocolate giveaway — Congratulations to Bobbie!!

Bobbie – your chocolates should be on their way soon. Thanks to all of you who entered! And just so you know – I’ll be launching my next awesome giveaway this Friday – so stay tuned šŸ™‚

Now, on to my random musings for this Sunday. First – let’s talk about fast food oatmeal. It’s an interesting trend – but more and more fast food restaurants are adding oatmeal to their breakfast menus – the most recent addition coming from McDonald’s.


The most interesting thing about this newest oatmeal addition was the chatter and criticism over how unhealthy the oatmeal actually was. For those of you who haven’t seen Mark Bittman’s article: How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong – definitely check it out here. The sad thing is, he’s 100% right. Somehow, McDonald’s did manage to make oatmeal unhealthy, and I can’t begin to figure out why.

So let’s start with the basics – why is McDonald’s oatmeal unhealthy?

  1. Oatmeal really should be one ingredient: whole rolled oats (or steel cut oats). McDonald’s has SEVEN – and this is just in the base – not in the added ingredients! Oats is their #1 ingredient, but they also add weird things like: “food starch modified” — what IS that?? Other added ingredients include: “natural flavor,” “barley malt extract,” and “caramel color.” Honestly – I don’t know why you need to add color to oatmeal. That’s just bizarre.
  2. Oatmeal should have zero grams of sugar as a base: Of course, you can (and should) add natural sugars (like honey, or stevia, or agave) to oatmeal to sweeten it up, but as a base – it should have zero sugars. The “base” for McDonald’s has 14g sugar. And that’s BEFORE you add the sweetened dried fruit (which has another 15g sugar). Just fyi – if you add the dried fruit to your already sweetened McDonald’s oatmeal – you’ll end up with as much sugar as in a whole Snickers bar. Isn’t that crazy?
  3. Instead of adding creme to oatmeal, milk is a better option: Unfortunately, the McDonald’s oatmeal only gives you the option of adding creme – not milk. The creme has 20 calories – 15 of which come from fat.

So yes, all of this really sucks, and it’s disappointing that McDonald’s didn’t try harder to make a healthier oatmeal like other fast food restaurants (more details on that below). But – to give a balanced review – I have to call out a few things about McDonald’s oatmeal that are somewhat redeeming:

  1. The oatmeal “base” is made with rolled oats – which is still good for you (even with the added crap). Also – a decent size serving has only 190 calories, 2.5g fat, 3g fiber and 4g protein. That’s not bad compared to other fast food breakfast options out there. And I’ve heard you can order it without the brown sugar – which will cut down on the total sugar in the dish and will save you some calories.
  2. One of the toppings is diced fresh apples. This is a GREAT option to both sweeten the oatmeal and add an extra 1g fiber without any calories. If you just got the apples + oatmeal – your entire breakfast would be 200 calories, 4g fiber, and 4g protein. (It is weird to me that the apples have “calcium ascorbate” added – doesn’t seem necessary but at least they’re still fresh apples.) One thing is for certain – stay away from the “cranberry raisin blend” and “creme” toppings – those two will add a total of 90 calories – most of which comes from sugar and fat – totally unnecessary for your breakfast.

What really gets me about all this: if you are just a normal consumer who assumes oatmeal and the toppings that come with it are healthy – you could unknowingly walk into a breakfast that causes you a sugar high & crash every day: the 30g of sugar in the fully loaded oatmeal guarantees it. And while the total caloric count (oatmeal + all toppings) isn’t outrageous (it’s only 290 calories total) – the nutritional bang for your buck isn’t great. I just feel like unless you do research and know your nutritional labels inside & out – a company like McDonald’s could totally dupe customers by introducing a “pseudo healthy” product. Which is why I felt the need to post about it today. I guess you have to give them credit for “trying,” – but even in their efforts to try they kind of get it wrong.

The good news is: there are FOUR other great fast food oatmeal options out there that actually are healthy and don’t have random ingredients added.

First up – Starbucks

This has to be one of my favorite fast food oatmeals because: 1) Their “base” has 0g sugar, 140 calories and 4g fiber. It’s instant oatmeal – which isn’t ideal, but better than oatmeal with tons of sugar added. 2) All of their toppings come in 50-100 calories packs – and you can add as much as you like: I suggest adding the nuts for extra fiber/protein, and skipping most of the dried fruit which has 20g sugar (ridiculous).

Our next fast food oatmeal star – Jamba Juice

This oatmeal option is probably the best one – because it’s made with steel cut oats! And the “Plain Oatmeal with Brown Sugar” has only 4 ingredients: Steel cut oats, soymilk, and brown sugar crumble (which you can ask for on the side, or eliminated altogether). The steel cut oats base only has 220 calories, 5g fiber and 8g protein. The brown sugar crumble has 7g sugar and 40 calories (which isn’t too bad).

Two other good options: AuBonPain and Cosi’s

ABP’s small (8oz) oatmeal has 170 calories, 1g sugar, 4g fiber, and 6g protein – and only 2 ingredients: Water and Rolled Oats.

Cosi has steel cut oats as well! And their serving has 220 calories, 4g fiber, 5g protein and 3g sugar. They have a crazy list of toppings – some of which are super unhealthy (like the dried fruit or whipped cream) – but all of them come on the side. And they have two great healthy toppings – pistachios and strawberries.

So while the McDonald’s version is deceptively unhealthy, there are plenty of good fast food oatmeal options out there – which is good news! It is sad though that consumers have to do so much digging to get to the bottom of what’s actually in the food we buy.

Which brings me to my next topic: I was recently contacted by a site called Food Facts – whose mission it is to eliminate confusion about what’s actually IN the foods we eat, and create a centralized resource for all the food information you could want! Check out their site here, and a video overview here.

I really applaud the work they’re doing and was happy to partner with them on a few things (since our sites have very similar missions). I’d definitely recommend touring their site for any food related questions you have.

And as I move on to my last topic, I’m acutely aware that it’s midnight and I have to wake up early for work tomorrow. So, I feel like a very appropriate last topic is my issue with getting enough sleep every night. Do any of you feel like you don’t sleep enough during the work week? I’m the type of person that actually needs 8 hours of sleep every night. When I’m well rested, I will wake up every morning after 8 hours of sleep like clockwork. The only trouble is, during the week I get about 6-7 hours (usually closer to 7). While that’s not bad – I feel like that’s still not enough sleep for me, because I always feel like I’m making up for lost sleep on the weekends.

So as I sign off tonight – I’ll leave you with two questions: 1) How much sleep do you usually get every night? and 2) Do you have any tips for me to make my sleep schedule more regular?

And with that, I think it’s my cue to head to bed. Happy (early) Monday everyone!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

RavieNomNoms February 28, 2011 at 9:14 am

Very educational post, thanks!

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Britne @ Shabbott's Habits March 1, 2011 at 8:40 am

Very well-written and informative post. I actually just tried the McDonald’s oatmeal yesterday for breakfast. After reading Mark Bittman’s post, I wanted to see if it at least tasted good. It was okay, but I agree with Bittman that its not the best option.

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Alissa Jones March 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm

This was definitely well-written. Why is it that everything McDonald’s touches turns into a nightmare? Even oatmeal! It’s annoying that they can’t find a good balance. Another good example is their salad. It might be healthy, but with all the dressing they include (as well as the nuts that come with it) it ends up being just as bad as a regular item from their menu. It’s crazy! Love the pros and cons of it though, very informative.

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Tonya - What's On My Plate March 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Great post! Nice comparison of the different oatmeals. If I’m going to do breakfast at a fast food place it won’t be oatmeal! Bring on the biscuits and bacon šŸ™‚

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Tanya Shah August 21, 2011 at 2:37 am

Taking melatonin is a popular and healthy way to regulate sleep– as long as you consistently take it at the same time. Timing is everything!

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