Dressing up McDonald’s bare-bones salads

I’ve written about how bare-bones McDonald’s post-pandemic salads are, if you can find them at your local McD outpost at all. So I’ve taken to bringing my own accompaniments to dress them up a bit. And I was excited to see someone else is getting a lot of TikTok views with her version of a McDonald’s salad.

Me first. You can see in the picture that I added cherry tomatoes (these are from my own garden), artichoke hearts and cucumber slices to one salad. I then layered in the lettuce from a second to make a more filling salad than anything on the McDoanld’s menu these days.

Other times, I’ve also brought slices of roasted red peppers to add. And of course, I’m using my own olive oil and balsamic vinegar, not any of the dressings available, all of which are too high in salt and fat,

Speaking of more filling salads, someone known as Amber_Rae55 on TikTok posted a video of her idea for a McDonald’s salad — basically a quarter pounder with no bun but extra lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, et al.

I wish she had opened the box to show us more, it’s a great idea. If you try ordering it, let me know.

If enough of us do things like that, maybe McDonald’s will finally get the message to add some real salads to its menu.

The first food predictions for 2023: complex heat, comfort food, street food will be in next year

I just saw the first of many food predictions for 2023, this from The Food Institute, a food news site, which predicts that complex heat, comfort foods and street foods will be in next year.

When I go off my post-angioplasty diet, I want it to be for amazing treats I love. Nathan's hot dogs fit that bill.
Street food anyone? When I’m in New York, I always head to Nathan’s for hot dogs.

“Spicy food has been gaining popularity over the last decade, but today’s consumers crave more than just heat—they want to learn about different peppers and the complexity of their flavors,” the Institute reports, citing a survey by Spoonshot.com which I couldn’t access directly from the link provided. This flavor trewnd, like the others, is being driven by Covid and its aftermath.

There are also cuisines that are trending, as consumers seek new experiences through food, where spice levels are more complex and at higher levels than U.S. consumers are generally used to—Indian, West African, etc.” Robyn Carter, founder and CEO of Jump Rope Innovation told The Food Institute. “As those cuisines continue to go mainstream in 2023, we’ll see more complex heat ahead.”

Nostalgia and the desire for comfort food that reminds you of happier times is a trend that has been around and will continue next year.

And consumers looking for new food experiences while trying to hold down their food costs will turn to street food, which also carries an air of authenticity for Gen Z consumers, the Institute article notes.

What will you be eating in 2023? We’d love to know, leave your comments here to tell us.

McDonald’s new salads are harder to find than I thought

A post I wrote earlier this year about McDonald’s salads coming back to post-Pandemic McDonald’s menus has gotten a lot of attention. But what I didn’t realize when I wrote it was that the decision to bring salads back is being left to operators at the local level.

Apparently finding a salad at McDonald’s these days is a hit-or-miss proposition depending on where you live and which store you try. Very sad.

Not every McDonald’s in a given market has salads any longer. Some comments on my post alerted me about this. And when I tried online ordering from various McDonald’s in Chicago’s northern suburbs, I found only my favorite location in Winnetka, Il., had the new, slimmed-down salads.

Apparently, having any healthy options on its menu takes too much time and labor for McDonald’s to prepare, so it’s concentrating on unhealthy burgers until the day comes when people aren’t eating them any longer. Sort of reminds me of Sears ignoring the Internet while Amazon ate its lunch and its business. Sad, if my local outlet drops salads, my days of going to McDonald’s will be over.

Inflation is taking a bite out of the eating-out trend

Rising prices are discouraging people from eating out or from ordering-in from restaurants, according to a new study by bid-on-equipment.com, which sells a variety of used equipment, including restaurant equipment.

The study surveyed 1,008 Americans early this year. It found 50% saying they are eating out less because of inflation.

The impact of the Pandemic was evident in survey responses, 40% of those answering said at least one of their favorite restaurants had closed permanently during the Pandemic.

Local restaurants still are preferred by more people than are chains. When searching for a place to eat, people turn to Google, word-of-mouth, Yelp and other social media, the survey found. (For more survey responses, see the graphic here).

You eating breakfast more often? You’re not alone

Americans apparently turned to breakfast more frequently during the pandemic, according to a new survey from restaurant chain Denny’s. Sadly though, eating heart-healthy doesn’t seem to be figuring into most people’s breakfast preferences.

The survey reports that 52% of U.S. states pick bacon as their main breakfast food, followed by eggs for 26% and pancakes for 18% (see the graphic here for your state’s pick). None of those are practicularly health-healthy. I stick to Trader Joe’s high fiber cereal with banana for my breakfast, adding an occasional fat-free yogurt.

When I find myself eating breakfast away from home, I’ll try for a veggie omelet made with egg whites or whole wheat pancakes (which sadly still tend to be high in salt).

Fifty-five percent of Americans have been eating breakfast more frequently during the pandemic than before, the study found. Eat-at-home vs. out for breakfast was a close call — 48% prefer eating it at home while 52% prefer eating it away from home.

McDonald’s 2022 salads — first look at nutrition information

When this blog was among the first, if not the first, to write that McDonald’s had brought back salads in U.S. outlets in 2022, the nutrition information for those was not posted either on the McDonald’s website or in its ordering app.

Last week, though, I saw it was now on the bottom of the salad container. So here is your first look:

Southwest Salad

  • Calories: 200
  • Total fat: 9 grams
  • Sodium: 350 mg
  • Carbs: 15 grams
  • Protein: 16 grams

The pre-pandemic McDonald’s Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad had 350 calories and 930 mgs of salt, likely because there was much more chicken on it and it had a glaze that included salt. It also had 37 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar, again all because of the larger chicken serving, I’m guessing.

It had 27 grams of carbs, for the carb counters out there.

So does that make the new salads healthier? You could say that, but remember it’s being done by making them smaller with less chicken.

I’m still buying two to make one decent-sized salad but I’m finding more and more brown-edged lettuce in these pre-packaged salads.

McDonald’s other new 2022 salad –chicken Caesar — no hailing Caesar with this one

Brown lettuce in my McDonald’s Caesar Salad, shame on you McD’s.

I’ve been writing about the return of salads to McDonald’s menu in 2022. My first try was its new Southwest salad, a pale reminder of the Southwest salad it once had. Today, I review its other new salad, a Caesar salad.

The packaging is the same as for the Southwest salad and has a use by date on the top, showing these are made somewhere offsite from McDonald’s stores. So they’ve been sitting somewhere waiting to be served. The one I bought had been sitting long enough that lettuce in it was brown, not very appetizing.

Unseal it and you see a tray with ingredients that include chicken, bacon and two compartments of cheese. That has to mean a lot of salt, both in the bacon and the cheese. The bacon bites tasted like real bacon, not some substitute. There are also croutons, likely also high in salt.

Continue reading “McDonald’s other new 2022 salad –chicken Caesar — no hailing Caesar with this one”

Healthy fast food alternatives — not exactly but better than some choices

Lists of healthy, or at least the least unhealthy, offerings at fast-food restaurants seem to pop up every year. That’s because those places are ubiquitous. If you’re out and about, it’s hard to avoid them. Plus, if you’re on a restricted diet like I am, every once and a whole you want to feel normal again by eating where the masses eat.

My new tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.
My tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.

This year’s list comes from Good Housekeeping, The 35 Healthiest Fast Food Orders You Can Get at Every Chain. A lot of salads make the list, beware of salt in those and in dressings though. I usually carry my own oil and vinegar in small plastic bottles to avoid salt-laden dressings.

It’s fun to see the classic White Castle slider on this list. “You don’t have to feel bad about enjoying a couple Original Sliders from White Castle — it scores better on the “healthy” scale than even the chicken or fish sliders. But here’s a surprise: if you’re looking for a vegetarian option, go with the Veggie Slider over the Impossible Slider to consume less overall calories and fat,” the article states. It doesn’t;t say anything about having six sliders at a meal as I sometimes do.

Oh well, happy eating.

A culinary gem in Milwaukee — yes, Milwaukee

When I attended college in Milwaukee during the early 1970s, upscale eating out primarily meant German food in one of the legendary big-three German restaurants there at the time (Mader’s, Rausch’s and Ernst’s — only Mader’s remains open today).

Other than that, there were chain restaurants downtown like Ponderosa and Perkins.

But boy, have times changed. Milwaukee this year has nine James Beard Award semifinalists.

We were back in Milwaukee recently and some dear friends took us to Story Hill BKC, whose owners are Beard semi-finalists for Outstanding Restaurateur. The food was excellent. I highly recommend it. You may find yourself going off your heart-healthy diet while there, but it’s worth a splurge.

BKC’s amazing steelhead trout.

We began with buttery biscuits that were so flaky and buttery that adding the generous dollop of butter that came with them seemed superfluous.

Dishes here are meant to be shared, although you might want to go back to have a meal all to yourself sometime.

A pasta special with hollow noodles and a light mushroom sauce was so good, we were at a local Italian grocery store the next day looking for the hollow noodles (bucatini) so my wife could try to duplicate the recipe at home.

For me, the star of the meal was a steelhead trout served on a cedar plank with a waffle. Here’s how the menu describes it: “smoked maple mustard glaze, everything potato waffle, dill creme fraiche, trout roe.”

The depth of flavor of that dish was truly special. While we shared it, I could have eaten several portions of it all by myself.

Milwaukee’s restaurant renaissance is much in evidence in trendy neighborhoods near downtown like the Third Ward or Walker Point. BKC is in a neighborhood called Story Hill, not far from the stadium where the Milwaukee Brewers play, so you may need to search for it. The trip will be well worth it.

McDonald’s salads are sneaking back onto menus

Are McDonald’s salads back? Could be.

I’ve written a lot about all the low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar food items that have disappeared during the pandemic as processors and restaurants concentrate only on their highest volume offerings. McDonald’s salads were an early pandemic food casualty.

But I think they’re coming back. I recently stopped at a local McDonald’s for some diet Coke, really the only thing I’ve ordered there since they dropped salads and yogurt.

My order came with a flyer listing a ‘buy a salad, get one free’ offer at some local McDonald’s (presumably all owned by the same franchisee).

I checked my app for my local McDonald’s and see one salad, the Ceasar chicken, again available for order. The Southwest Salad is listed as not available.

Let’s be clear, there are many, many other lunch choices that would be healthier than a McDonald’s salad which is still loaded with salt. Healthier lunch choices would be things you make yourself so you can control the salt, fat and sugar content.

My new tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.
My new tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.

But if you have to buy lunch at McDonald’s, the salad is the least unhealthy choice. Don’t use the dressings, there add even more salt. Carry your own in small plastic bottles like I used to do pre-pandemic.

Read my reviews of the new southwest salad and the new Caesar salad. Click on the embedded links in the salad names here.

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