Breakfast of Champions
Sitting in the stands in Matt Knight Arena this past weekend watching a women’s basketball game, I was distracted from the action on the court by the overabundance of corporate signage. In additional to the usual local sponsors (from a nearby Indian Casino to a hometown grocery store chain, there was a huge McDonald’s banner. The brand was again touted in a digital display running under the scorers’ table. It read: McDonald’s the Official Breakfast of the Oregon Ducks.
Allow me to rant a moment. It feels so good to rant about something other than, well, you know what. Presidents come and go. But McDonald’s, like The Dude, abides.
The most common breakfast at McDonald’s is the sausage Egg McMuffin which derives more than 30 percent of its calories from fat. The bad kind. One little sandwich, consumed in a few bites in less than a minute contains 25 percent of the saturated fat you should take in for the entire day – if, indeed, you should take in any saturated fat. Cholesterol content? That would be 87 percent of your daily max. Wondering about sodium? Wonder no longer. That little sandwich contains more than 1/3 of your total daily sodium intake. Somehow or another, amid all that fat and salt, McDonald’s recipe geniuses managed to throw in a teaspoon of sugar.
It’s all about what’s called in the junk food/ fast food biz, the “bliss point,” that carefully calibrated magic combination of fat, salt and sugar that activates the pleasure-reward pathways in our brains. It’s the laboratory-orchestrated “flavor profile” that keeps us eating (gobbling, really) without being satiated (for very long).
Every day, one in four Americans eats at a fast food restaurant. As a nation (a Fast Food Nation), we spend more than $200 billion a year on meals like the Official Breakfast of the Oregon Ducks. That’s a chunk of change. Ironically, $200 billion is also the estimated cost of U.S. medical spending directly related to obesity. People love the “flavor profile.” People hit the “bliss point.” And it’s cheap! The food is cheap because the major commodities used to produce it are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government.
Speaking of more money than most of us who are not President of the United State can imagine, fast food restaurants spent $4.6 billion in advertising in 2013 (most recent stat I could find) with McDonald’s easily topping the chart, outspending #2 Subway by 60 percent.
It’s not just that this Official Breakfast is BAD for you. It is also not what today’s health-conscious, high-energy athletes DO eat to stay in top shape. But most of all, the “Official Breakfast” proclamation is not what all those hundreds of kids in the stands should be reading, the kids who idolize the athletes, who want to grow up to be just like them. They won’t grow up to be just like them by breakfasting on McMuffins and McGriddles.