Thursday, March 3, 2011

100% Organic McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

Friends! Readers! I've been absent for far too long, I know! But if ever there was a good excuse to be had, have I got a good one. In researching these posts, I realized that I really would like to understand the science behind what we're eating. So I decided to become a nutritionist! Thing is, getting certified as a registered dietitian (the industry term) takes a dang lot of science courses, so I have been busting my butt studying organic chemistry and the like and I haven't been posting here for you. But in the meantime, I did start another (much less time consuming) blog,, which I encourage you to check out if you have a hard time thinking of what to bring to the office for lunch!

But considering Mark Bittman's recent post on the all-around evilness of McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, I just couldn't resist putting together this post. I really enjoyed Bittman's review, as I've long been saying essentially the same thing to anyone who tells me, "But McDonald's has oatmeal now!" At $2.16 with tax, it's overpriced (for oatmeal) and it has almost as much sugar as a can of soda. Now having bought one, I especially enjoy the advertisement for the Chipotle BBQ Bacon Angus burger on the bag -- definitely evidence that McD's wants to get you through the door with the promise of a healthy breakfast just to tempt you with it's pricier, more delicious fare.

Bittman mentions the product's "11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen," but no one seems to have yet pointed out that NOT A ONE of the 21 total ingredients has anything to do with maple syrup! I'm glad I realized this before shelling out $10 for a bottle of organic maple syrup for my recipe, but I'm still left scratching my head. It's right there in the name of the product, and the fake corn syrup version has to be practically as cheap as fountain soda, so why not include it? I'll grant that using both maple syrup and brown sugar as sweeteners would certainly be sugar overkill, but that's never stopped a fast food chain. I assume that any hint of maple comes from the ingredient named "natural flavor (plant source)," but sheesh.

While we're still on the subject of sugar (I know, you want to get to the recipe!) I just have to point out something even more hilarious than the fact that there is no maple in this product. You see, the exact oatmeal mixture you get depends on whether you order the product with or without sugar. There are two separate oatmeal listings on the ingredients PDF:
Oatmeal: Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.

Oatmeal without Brown Sugar: Whole grain rolled oats, food starch-modified, maltodextrin, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.
While brown sugar is obviously not an ingredient in the unsweetened version, the unsweetened version also contains an ingredient that the regular version doesn't include. It's maltodextrin -- A SUGAR!!!!!!!!!! I cannot bold this fact enough to truly emphasize how ridiculous this is. Granted, maltodextrin is used in a lot of fast food products, and its primary purpose is not always as a sweetener, but you really have to wonder why it isn't included in the sweetened version if it has some other function. It seems to me that McDonald's figured that while some people might order the product without sugar, in order to make sure that customers really like the taste and come back for seconds, they'd better throw some sugar in there in some form just to be sure. Double sheesh.

Ok, on to the organic version. As Bittman says, you can throw this together in a fraction of the time it takes to wait in line at McDonald's, and for a fraction of the cost (and with my method cleanup is minimal). But the most beautiful fact of all is that (at least in NYC) organic oatmeal from the bulk bins at Whole Foods is the cheapest sort of oatmeal you can buy; it's practically free at $1.19/lb! That's enough for over a week's worth of breakfasts.

I've only used two teaspoons of sugar in my version, but the fact that the sweetened McDonald's version has 14 grams of sugar more than their unsweetened version suggests they really use closer to four teaspoons. Two seems plenty to me, but use whatever you like. If you'd rather sweeten is with maple syrup, Whole Foods has organic maple syrup for $9.99 for 10 oz. I used half and half instead of light cream because it's what I keep in the house, but really, it's all the same. Use milk if you don't have either around.

And the results? $0.68 for a completely organic breakfast that you can prepare with about two minutes of hands-on time and throw in your bag. That's less than a third of the fast food version's price, and the recipe will certainly take you less time than stopping by McD's to order some.

So I didn't actually feed this to The Expert. He's not much of a breakfast person, and oatmeal is the last thing he'd order even if he were. But my verdict is this: The organic version is definitely not as sweet, and it doesn't quite have the "maple" taste of the McDonald's version (I use quotes because I'm really not sure what that flavor's something sweet other than sugar, but it's not distinctively maple.) The homemade version is also chunkier in that you can actually see the individual oats. The consistency is similar, though, and the fruit additions taste practically identical.

Honestly, the McDonald's version tastes slightly better, but in the way a candy bar tastes better than a granola bar. I don't want a candy bar for breakfast, thankyouverymuch, so I don't mind the homemade version in the least. Check out the recipe, I think you'll especially like the no-cook method I've devised for quick prep.

Recipe: McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal


  1. Thanks for doing this! The mccann's iriah oatmeal (instant) I bought which tastes very similar to McDonald's version has these ingredients: Whole Grain Rolled Oats (With Oat Bran), Sugar, Salt, Calcium Carbonate (A Source of Calcium), Natural Flavors, Guar Gum, Caramel Color, Maple Sugar, Brown Sugar, Ferric Orthophosphate (A Source of Iron), Niacinamide (One of the B Vitamins), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6 [One of the B Vitamins]), Riboflavin (One of the B Vitamins), Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamin Mononitrate (One of the B Vitamins), Folic Acid (One of the B Vitamins).

    I think it gets its maple flavor from the maple sugar, which looks to be rather expensive from a quick google search. The taste is very similar to McD. 160 cal from the oatmeal (per 43g)

  2. Holy cow, I think those ingredients might be even crazier than McDonald's! At least they're mostly vitamins.

    Agree that maple sugar is expensive...I dunno, I'm not a maple fanatic so I can live without it, but even if you wanted to shell out for real maple sugar or syrup, you'd still be paying less per serving than McDonald's, and they don't use anything close to the real stuff.

    Thanks for inspiring me to write this post!!

  3. McDonalds in Australia doesnt serve oatmeal, but they do have some really yummy looking bagel sandwiches.

    I cant tell if aussie "Maccas" is healthier than american Mcdonalds, or if the website has just convinced me that it is!