McDonald’s Corp has credited the addition of oatmeal to its menu, as well as its McCafe hot chocolate and Chicken McNuggets, for a 5.3 percent rise in sales in January 2011 at its locations opened more than a year [http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=97876&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1526194&highlight=].
As someone who has oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day of the year, the success of oatmeal sales at McDonald’s was intriguing. There is good reason to eat oats, which are widely recognized as a “functional food” which provides much more than basic nutrition.A good source of soluble fiber, oats help lower blood cholesterol.They also contain significant levels of Vitamin E and healthy fats.”Although the majority of oats produced worldwide are still fed to animals, an increase in human consumption in North America from the late nineteenth century onward can be credited to Ferdinand Schumacher, who developed quick-cooking rolled oats, and Henry Crowell, who packaged the product under the retail brand Quaker Oats,” according to an entry in Edible, which also notes that “Oat domestication did not occur until grain cultivation spread to Europe, where cooler, wetter, less sunny northern climates suited its growth” (Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008, www.nationalgeographic.com/books).
This past Sunday, my local newspaper, the Times Union of Albany, NY, included a coupon for a “Get a FREE Fruit & Maple Oatmeal- no purchase necessary” coupon.I seemed fated to try McDonald’s oatmeal especially when I noticed a special sign on the sidewalk outside a nearby McDonald’s on Central Avenue in Albany, NY offering Fruit & Maple Oatmeal for $1.99.With my coupon, I would even save the $1.99, making it almost irresistible to stop and see what this was all about: oatmeal at a McDonald’s, quite a surprise.
But, alas, I resisted and decided to stick with my routine of homemade oatmeal, using the organic oats I purchase from the bulk foods department at my local food coop, Honest Weight Food Coop (www.honestweight.coop), at a reasonable $1.09 per pound for organic rolled oats.(The coop also sells regular rolled oats at 79 cents per pound.)I usually boil up the cup of water for my oatmeal with a handful of frozen cranberries.(At Thanksgiving time in November, when cranberries are widely available, I purchase a few extra packages and freeze them for the purpose of using them to make my morning oatmeal.When I run out, I buy Stahlbush Island Farms frozen organic cranberries at the food coop (http://www.stahlbush.com/our-products/frozen-fruits/), watching for when they are on sale since they’re regularly priced at $5.89 for 10 ounces.)When the water comes to a rolling boil, I add ½ cup of oats, and as the oats simmer for a mere five minutes, I make a pot of green tea.The homemade oatmeal costs me only pennies, and I can be certain that the cinnamon sprinkled on top is organic or if I use syrup, it’s real maple syrup not artificial.Plus, I can add a few walnuts, raisins or a sliced banana depending on my mood and what is at hand.
My decision to forego oatmeal at McDonald’s was reinforced uncannily by a passionate column appearing only a day or two later in the New York Times by the “real food” authority, Mark Bittman, who investigated the oatmeal served at McDonald’s.His point that “real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient” rang true in its simple assertion of a basic fact.McDonald’s oatmeal in contrast had “ingredients” according to Mr. Bittman: “‘Cream’ (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise.There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including ‘natural flavor’).”McDonald’s markets its oatmeal as “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples.”According to Mr. Bittman, a more accurate description of McDonald’s oatmeal would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/how-to-make-oatmeal-wrong/?scp=1&sq=opinionator%20Mark%20Bittman&st=cse). The coupon clipped from the Sunday newspaper ended up in the paper recycling bin (FWB 2/25/11).