When I was little, back on Staten Island (fist pump), every now and then–as in twice a year–my parents would get us McDonald’s for breakfast. My brother and I loved to get their sausage egg mcmuffins, side of hash browns, and orange drink (does anyone remember the orange “drink”?!). I remember finishing the breakfast sandwich and thinking to myself that I could eat two of them, if only I had one more in front of me. It was an “ignorance is bliss” type of scenario when I was little. I practically lost weight when I ate food, and never needed to give a thought to what I was putting in my body–let alone think about the nutrition associated with it. I maintained that train of thought until senior year of high school when lo and behold, it turned out that half the foods I ate were completely disastrous for my prom dress size, etc. Then once my eyes were opened to the world of eating whole foods, and the fact that McDonald’s was (is?) the antithesis of that, I never looked back. Sigh.
Fast forward eight years.
Last week when I was in New York City, I was running late for my train at Penn Station, so I hopped into a cab and stared out the window at the traffic in a panic hoping to get there on time. While in angst watching the lights continuously turn red, we passed a McDonald’s with a huge egg mcmuffin picture in the window, and thanks to the NYC laws that require chain restaurants to show calories (man I really miss that in Austin), the sign said “300 calories.”
Wait a minute. Hold the phone.
I immediately started pulling up the nutrition information in my phone to see what the deal was. Where was the hidden poison? Surely it must be in there. After all, beauty is only skin deep, right? Man did that picture look good. I wanted to jump out of the cab and order one.
After pulling it up on my phone, I was really excited to see that the the 300 calories were true. Unfortunately, there’s a high amount of saturated fat in there, BUT let’s just say you don’t care too much about the fat facts and you have the cholesterol of a blade of grass. Then you might think to yourself, “Wow, if it really is just an egg on an english muffin, that’s pretty clean food.” Just to be sure, I decided to actually check out the ingredients themselves.
Let’s start with the egg, shall we?
Okay. First ingredient: USDA Grade A eggs. Cool. Second ingredient: soy lecithin, which is noted as a release agent. Oh! A release agent! Is that the guy who comes and saves the eggs from prison? Or perhaps the little elves that help push the egg out of the shell? After looking it up, I found out it’s an extract of soybeans used to keep the egg from sticking on the cooking surface. Gotcha. But is it bad for me? Turns out, not really. There’s a even a dietician who has taken soy lecithin as a supplement. Then there’s the Liquid Margerine ingredient list… which I’ll get to later..
Next up, the cheese.
The name alone gives me the willies. “Process” American cheese. mmm. It’s so odd to see this inredient list. “Color added”… very informative, huh? Also, there are four acid ingredients: citric acid, scorbic acid, lactic acid, and acetic acid. Goes good with coffee, no? Interesting facts
- Did you know vinegar is acetic acid in a very diluted form? (source)
- Scorbic acid is a preservative that attacks certain molds, yeast, and bacteria, and is synthesized as a fatty acid in the body (source)
- Color added, courtesy of Crayola (yes, really) … (no, not really)
Onto the english muffin.
Woah. Baby. What is going on in there?! There must be more than 20 different factories involved in making that little dough sandwich possible. Thank you, globalization.
Questionable ingredients that I would never add into my oatmeal as a topping:
- Datem. (sounds like computer software). According to Wikipedia, “DATEM (Diacetyl Tartaric (Acid) Ester of Monoglyceride) is an emulsifier primarily used in baking. It is used to strengthen the dough by building a strong gluten network. It is used in crusty breads, such as rye bread with a springy, chewy texture, as well as biscuits, coffee whiteners, jars of salsa con queso, and dressings.” … okay, I guess
- Azodicarbonamide. Really? Did Frankenstein’s maker create this? According to this source, “It is a chemical whose primary use is ‘in the production of foamed plastics.’ In the United States it is also used as a food additive and flour bleaching agent. It is banned as a food additive and in food packaging in the United Kingdom. It is banned in most European countries as well as Australia. And its use in Singapore has some pretty severe penalties (up to 15 years in prison and $450,000 fine).” Great!
Next up: canadian bacon. Sure to be the worst offender.
Wow. Surprising. There are only 9 ingredients, and I know what the first four ingredients are. The fact that it just says “pork” always makes me nervous though. What parts of the… ya know… I can’t even write that sentence without getting nauseous. But I’m guilty of eating things like turkey bacon fairly frequently, so I’m definitely not one to preach on this. I choose to block out what I know I may be eating–feigning ignorance, some might say.
And finally, the liquid margarine.
As soon as I see the word “hydrogenated” I know it’s no good. That’s the kind of oil that sits in solid form when at room temperature, AKA, it does the same thing in your arteries. No bueno. The common question of which is worse–butter or margarine–comes to mind here. I’m going to vote that buttah is bettah, if the ingredients are things we can all pronounce.
Looking at this ingredient list, would you eat an Egg McMuffin?
Do you care more about caloric intake or the ingredients you put into your body?