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Published: Wednesday, 9/19/2012

Weighty numbers

McDonald's customers soon will encounter the kind of consumer response now reserved for the purchase of a new car or designer shoes: sticker shock. It's not just for pricey items anymore.

The cost of McDonald's foods and drinks isn't changing. But the fast-food chain soon will display calorie information for each menu item. The figures are bound to surprise some consumers.

That little, basic hamburger, which helped start it all for the world's largest restaurant chain, has 250 calories. It probably calls for an order of fries as well. Add 230 calories. Thirsty? A small Coke has 150 calories.

That meal is not much bigger than a child's Happy Meal. But its 630 calories represent a big chunk of the daily intake recommended for adults by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it doesn't include any fresh fruit or vegetables.

But wait, you say, McDonald's has those items on its menu. Small salads without cheese or chicken have reasonable nutritional value, but the calories in other salads are belt-busting.

Take the Southwest Salad with crispy chicken. With dressing, it has 450 calories. Want fruit? The strawberry-banana smoothie packs 330 calories.

McDonald's decision to post calorie content on its menus helps consumers pay attention to what they're eating. But it doesn't change the selection. Too many items at McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants remain too heavy on fat, sugar, and salt, and too light on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Posting the calorie counts may lead to a new slogan under the golden arches: Buyer beware.



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