Making Healthy Food Appealing

We recently received a coupon flier from McDonald’s. I guess Ben thought it was weird that I kept it so he flipped through it. Then he saw this ad and said, “I know what you want from McDonald’s, this…”

Yes, have you heard? McDonald’s has oatmeal. Now, I haven’t tried it yet, but this is what I’ve heard… It’s maple oatmeal with dried fruit at about 280 calories.

But, this started a debate between Ben and I because I said, “At least they’re trying…” And we got into a lengthy conversation about why people eat fast food and why despite healthy options, many still choose the less than healthy picks.

Question: What do you think?

Do you think people are aware of the fact that (most) fast food is bad for them? If so, why do they still eat it?

How can marketers/advertisers/parents/fast food companies make healthy food more appealing so people demand it??

I think many times people do realize the food they are eating is not a healthy choice, but they do not know how or where to get good tasting healthy food. Also, fast food is FAST – which is one of the reasons it would be someone’s first choice.

Ben says that when he is trying to be healthy he gets a salad from Wendy’s. He has also been known to order the chicken salad sandwich from Arby’s thinking “salad” in the name means it’s healthy. Um, Nope.

But, I’m not sure how to market healthy food so that people want it and kids ask for it!


  1. says

    I think most people realize that fast food isn’t good for them in some way. I just don’t think they realize HOW bad it actually is. What bugs me even more is the fact that supposedly “healthy” items are usually actually not all that healthy. Veggie sandwiches are usually saturated in oil or WAY too much hummus. Salads drenched in dressing. Grilled chicken fried in oil. To the average person, these salads, veggie wraps, chicken, etc sound healthy. And they should be healthy! It just frustrates me that places can make these healthy items so very un-healthy!

  2. says

    I agree that people know they are bad for them, but a lot of times they just don’t care. It some cases it is that people just aren’t “educated” on food and the body and how to combine the two. Companies know both of those and so they advertise without really selling their food. It’s really sad!

  3. Caroline says

    I once read somewhere that people who eat at places like subway think everything on the menu is under 6 grams of fat (or whatever subway advertises) not only do they order cheese, mayo, etc on their sub, but they “treat” themselves to cookies, chips, and pop because they think they made a healthy choice with their sub. I think most people have a false sense of what the healthy option is at a fast food place.

  4. says

    This is really interesting to me too. In fact, it’s really fascinating when it comes to children and their associations with fast food. It’s mostly a marketing ploy, but kids’ brand awareness far surpasses what you’d expect from a 9-year-old. There was some study on Nightline or Dateline or one of those about it not too long ago… Long story short, kids offered apple slices were not into them. Kids offered the same apple slices in a McD’s french fry sleeve took them and said they were delicious.

    Yikes, sorry so long. Pretty tangential too. Great topic and post!

  5. says

    I think people know its not good for you, but they just want something cheap, easy and that tastes good. If people could just be educated to know you can EASILY make something BETTER at home, we would be much better off in general!

  6. says

    I think the majority of the population knows that *most* fast food is unhealthy. You pretty much have to live under a rock not to know that fried food is bad and that there are better choices to make. I think people eat fast food because they want to, not because they don’t know any better. Maybe they are lazy, but maybe they just really like cheeseburgers and fries. I am able to make healthy choices for myself when we go out to eat because I choose to stay informed and look at menus/ingredient lists online before hand.

    I actually think the fast food companies are doing a decent job at marketing healthier choices: apple slices, milk, white meat chicken, salads, etc. There is always room for improvement, but things have really changed for the better in the past few years.

    I agree with the previous commenter about “healthy” options not being that healthy. It seems like even veggie burgers are calorie laden; and let’s not even talk about salads with pounds of cheese, croutons and high fat dressing.

    It’s all about choice. I believe that we all have the right to choose what goes in our bodies. Sure, I don’t eat double cheeseburgers and french fries, but I don’t begrudge any one else the right. I bring my daughter to McDonalds every so often for a happy meal. It’s a treat for her because we choose to eat healthier meals at home.
    And now that I’ve written a novel (sorry!) I must say that the McDonald’s oatmeal looks really good. There is a McDonald’s in the same parking lot as my gym and the smell of hashbrowns in the morning is intoxicating, when I get out of my car. Perhaps I’ll have to give the oatmeal a try one day.

  7. says

    I think people know its bad, but don’t know HOW bad. I can make a burger at home that is (relatively) healthy and they might think that a fast food place would have similar nutrition. but honestly, how do they fit so many fat grams into such a tiny patty????

  8. says

    Some fast food choices are definitely better than others. I almost never eat fast food, but in a pinch, I’ll get a chicken sandwich or salad from Wendy’s and throw away the croutons. It’s not my ideal meal, taste-wise or health-wise, but it’s hard to go wrong with vegetables. I doubt their salads are that are really that much worse for you than a restaurant salad.

  9. Dynamics says

    I think the book “Eat This Not That” started to bring more awareness about our fast food choices. Who would think a salad could be more calories and fat than the average person needs per meal. The question is…How fast can YOU make that cup of oatmeal and slice up that fruit. I bet it can be done faster than waiting in line during breakfast rush hour because you think you do not have time to prepare breakfast. Sorry, pet peeve of mind. “I do not have time.”

  10. says

    I think the great thing about McDonalds offering healthy options is that sometimes people end up there sort of against their will. Whether it’s because they’re stuck in an airport or have to stop on the road, McDonalds is often an option where there isn’t a lot else. So, while I think that it’s ridiculous to expect McDonalds to completely healthify (they’re famous for burgers, and that’s kind of the way it should be, right?) their menu, it’s great that they’re offering ADDITIONAL healthy items.

  11. says

    I see my students eat processed junk and fast food everyday. They know this food isn’t good for them but there are many reasons they eat it. It tastes good. They are not concerned with nutrition because they have no healthy eating role models. It’s cheap (especially important in high poverty area like the South Bronx). It’s readily available, unlike fresh fruit and vegetables. They prefer it to the free lunches and breakfasts provided for them at school (which are really not much healthier than fast food). In America, the ability to eat well and understand nutrition is inextricably tied to one’s socioeconomic status.

  12. linds says

    i think people realize how bad it is for them, it is just they like it and aren’t truly motivated to change their habits.

  13. Kellie says

    I think they need to have the nutritional info directly next to the item on the menu. I went to IHOP the other day and it was next to the item on the menu. Sure made me change my order.

  14. says

    I think most people eat fast food because yea it is cheap & fast. In my hometown in Louisiana which is really small every time I go back there the only place to get anything healthy is the town’s one grocery store which has very small produce section. Everything else is fast food or fried at the restaurants not surprisingly the obesity rates correlate very well with the options. I honestly think a lot of people if they do know any better just do not know what to because of the lack of options.

  15. says

    i completely agree with the halo effect. i think most people know that fast food is bad but can delude themselves into thinking it’s okay if they know that a healthier option exists somewhere on the menu. i kind of equate it to those who order huge meals from fast food joints but say it’s okay because they’re getting a diet coke.

  16. Alyssa says

    I think it’s a combination of not being aware (salad must be healthy!) and not caring. I married someone of a different race and I was very surprised to realize my husband attitude was (and inlaws still is) “I want this, and I am going to eat it”. Food choices are based solely on what tastes good, and they are actually shocked that I attempt to make choices that take into account taste AND health, almost as if that never would have occurred to them. The first time I went to thanksgiving there I got SICK and couldn’t move all night from eating so much butter and fat. They also find my daily exercise completely ridiculous, and actually try to talk me out of it sometimes! This was a huge eye opener for me, and I can only imagine this is a huge reason for obesity and the success of the fast food industry in the U.S.

  17. D says

    I think people generally feel entitled to bad/fast food. I always feel like it’s a mindset of “why SHOULDNT i get to eat this?” and that life is so unfair. Like it’s just so unfair that the comanies trick us/make bad food/have false advertising, etc. People want things to be easy! Everyone wants an easy fix, and a lot of people aren’t willing to just make the effort. Like, they want to just be told that there’s only 6g of fat, or whatever it is, and don’t want to do any additional thinking about it. Can’t have it all!

  18. says

    I think it is a variety of factors that were mentioned above. I think people know, but unfortunately due to lack of time and often MONEY see no other option. It makes me sad that as a country we can’t afford to eat better, but sometimes that is all people can afford, and let’s face it, even though cheaper, those salads and healthy fast food items are not on the dollar menu. I will admit I eat it on the very rare occasion and my husband even more than that. He LOVES it and I am not sure why, I think it was largely how he was raised, which let’s face it are really hard habits to change and I don’t want him to resent me for being a nag. And he knows it is bad, but is also of that mindset of life is too short, which then spawns another whole argument from me, but as I said, I don’t want our marriage to be me bullying all the time. Luckily, it is not as often as it used to be :)

  19. Heather C says

    It drives me crazy when people think they are eating ‘healthy’ by ordering a tuna or chicken salad sandwich…or a salad covered in croutons, bacon, dressing & cheese!

    I will tell you though, that oatmeal from McDonalds is actually pretty amazing! I was wondering what the nutrional stats were but was actually pretty scared to look. I’ve only had it once, but I wouldn’t hesitate, it’s so creamy good.

  20. Becky says

    I completely agree with all the comments made already. I fell into the same traps thinking the healthy options were in fact healthy. I ordered the salads, fish sandwiches and even the veggie burger from Burger King. How do they pump so much sodium into the same burger you can buy from the grocery store? I just don’t get it! When I became a vegetarian six years ago I was sure I couldn’t mess up because, well, I wasn’t eating meat. Every year my aunt would serve Tofurky just for me on Thanksgiving. I thought I was making a smart choice until I read the nutritional facts and ingredient list. Shocking, really shocking.

    I think companies just use fake outs or buzz words to market the idea of healthy eating. However, people DO know that they are making some type of poor choice by eating fast food. Cheap and quick will always succeed on some level. I see it with my two young nieces, they just love any fast food or chain restaurants. Every time I see them I talk to them about eating more fruits and vegetables and it’s like a foreign subject. People just want what’s easy, actually thinking and reading about food and choices are barely a priority in most people’s busy schedules.

  21. says

    I work in a public capacity teaching about nutrition & cooking and deal mostly with underprivelaged and impoverished people. Most of them have a general idea that fast food/packaged food isn’t good for them, but rarely do they have any clue about the amount of sugar, salt, fat and calories that are in these foods. Let’s get educating and let everyone know!!!!

  22. says

    it took me a long time to realize what fast food was doing to my body. I ate it all the time in my first year of college. When I stopped eating it, I lost weight and stopped having stomach pains, heartburn and indigestion in the middle of the night. It was a fantastic feeling. I think people know it’s bad for them, but it’s cheap, hot and fast so it’s tempting. I’m sure if fast food places offered a bigger variety of healthy choices, people would try ’em out.

    That said, I can’t believe McDonald’s has oatmeal! that’s awesome.

  23. says

    My first thought was they’re trying to compete with Starbucks’ oatmeal. That has gotten pretty popular.
    My second thought is if I were forced to go to McD for breakfast one morning that would totally be what I would get. I dislike the other items, and I don’t think of it as a good value.

  24. says

    I sometimes think it’s a price thing and a time thing – people are too busy nowadays and the economy isn’t great, so fast food is quicker and cheaper. That being said, I don’t make a lot of money but still manage to buy veggies and good stuff. I like that these fast food places are trying and sometimes my husband and I do go to them. Luckily, I’d rather have the salad than a burger!

    Though, they are trying to make it appealing to kids … apple slices at McDs (though they’re with caramel sauce). Even grocery stores have little Mickey Mouse carrot packs. You never know – at least there’s the thought that’s there.

    Personally I love the Starbucks oats – for some reason they just look more appealing than McDs.


  25. says

    I like oatmeal, but I’ll stick with my oatmeal at home. Didn’t know they had it now. I avoid fast food places…My Body would go to McD’s for oatmeal but as soon as I see the whoel menu…I’m going for a mcmuffin. I must stay away all together. lol

  26. says

    It’s really really hard for me to conceptualize what most people think of as healthy and unhealthy anymore. I am so far removed from the standard things that I am shocked when I hear people talking sometimes – often in the lunch room w/ other teachers or in line at the market. It’s crazy!

  27. says

    I think most people just plain don’t care. After all, *I’m* not going to die in a car crash. That only happens to other people. Ooops! Gotta speed up! The light’s yellow! See ya!

  28. says

    I don’t go into a fast food joint for oatmeal and I don’t think most people do either. It’s usually with the knowledge that I want some junk or I’m indulging. Still, I appreciate that they are trying in case there’s no another option such as when you’re on the road.

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