Super-Sized Sandwiches Lead to Plus-Size Pants

The Big Mac turns 40 this year.The oversized sandwich was invented in 1967 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, by McDonald’s franchisee Jim Delligatti, and it was introduced on McDonald’s menus across America in 1968. Today, approximately 550 million Big Macs are sold each year in the United States alone. Perhaps not coincidentally, a recent report from the Trust for America’s Health revealed that more than 20 percent of adults in 47 states are now obese—the worst shape the nation has ever been in. Clearly,it’s time for McDonald’s to unveil another new menu item: a McVeggie Burger.

While the Big Mac may not single-handedly be to blame for all the blubber in America, it certainly hasn’t helped. Just one Big Mac has a whopping 540 calories and 29 grams of fat, including 10 grams of saturated fat. According to a recent Business Week report, Americans consume about 17,582 tons of fat from Big Macs every single year, roughly the weight of more than 40 fully loaded Boeing 747 passenger jets.

In other words, Big Macs (not to mention Big Bufords, Whoppers and other fast-food fare) equal big butts. Seriously. Last year, a medical journal warned doctors that their injections may be ineffective, because American rumps have become so big that a standard needle frequently cannot reach muscle through all the fat.

Fast-food chains’ meaty menus don’t just cause customers to pack on pounds; they can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and other health problems. Here’s a tip off: At least two McDonald’s executives have succumbed to diet-related diseases. CEO Jim Cantalupo died of a heart attack in April 2004, and less than a year later, his successor, Charlie Bell, died of colon cancer, a disease that is strongly linked to red and processed meats.

Health experts have long criticized fast-food companies for marketing their unhealthy products to kids. Child obesity rates have tripled since 1980 and continue to grow faster than adult obesity rates. McDonald’s has recently taken some steps to help kids—and adults—eat better. Instead of commercials featuring dancing McNuggets and jingles promoting the Big Mac’s“two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” McDonald’s newer advertisements feature a hip-hop Ronald McDonald groovin’ with fit kids, encouraging American youth to get active. And as the nation’s waistlines have expanded, so has McDonald’s menu. The Big Mac is still one of McDonald’s most popular sellers, but the company now offers entrée-sized salads, fruit and juice as well.

Yet one item is conspicuously missing from the menu. While Burger King offers a BK Veggie burger at its 8,500 U.S. locations, McDonald’s has yet to put a veggie burger on its menus nationwide. This is an easy and effective thing the company could do to show that it is serious about ending obesity. Vegan foods are naturally low in fat and calories, and veggie burgers typically have more nutritional value than traditional fast-food items. This move would also make good business sense. Due to consumer demand, many chain restaurants, including Johnny Rockets, Ruby Tuesdays and Chili’s, have already added veggie burgers to their menus.

The Big Mac has had its 40 years of fame. Now it’s time for the super-sized sandwich to give way to a healthier, more humane menu item: the McVeggie burger.

Elaine Sloan is a vegan and vocal animal rights activist. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Elaine, or visit Elaine's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on October 4th, 2007 at 5:41am #

    I think that obesity in America has far more to do with how Americans eat than what they eat. Big Macs are fine as long as you don’t eat them all the time! That, indeed, can be said of almost any food or drink. The problem is the “stuff your face and run” mentality which underlies American eating. Instead of viewing meals are an esential part of human existence, it is seen as a chore, a waste of time, something to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. Fast food and its misuse are part of the American “work until you drop” mentality. Here in Europe, we have all these American food chains but we don’t have the same obesity problem. Except, recently, in Britain, which has slavishly copied the American lifestyle since the Thatcher era. The problem is thus not MacDonalds, it is the American lifestyle.

    Man works to live, he does not live to work, said Pope John Paul II. When Americans learn to live in accordance with the natural order of the world all the natural functions, including eating, will fall into their proper place. Attacking the visible symptoms of the problem won’t solve the problem.

  2. Pollack in Idaho said on October 4th, 2007 at 11:11am #

    Too many calories/too little activity are the two most direct causes of American obesity, but I think that there are deeper reasons, underlying these two. Eating is one of the easiest ways to fight depression, boredom, anxiety, and other forms of psychological distress. Americans are fat, because they eat too much; but they eat too much, because they are deeply unhappy, and for good reasons. When people are forced to exist in a way profoundly insulting to human intelligence, aspirations, and common sense, unhappiness is a natural and unavoidable outcome. In Soviet Union, the outlet was provided by vodka (food was unappetizing, and often hard to come by); in America, it is Big Mac. It would seem to me, that American society has become more unhappy in last several decades, and the expanding waistlines are result of self-medication with food. To change it, would require a substantial revision of attitudes to life and injection of a good dose of reality into societal discourse. Is it possible? Well, things change. As a young person, living in Poland, I was often told that it is pointless to struggle against communism. The question for me was not whether it was pointless or not, but rather – what else to do? When people are busy living, they don’t get obese.

  3. Chris Crass said on October 4th, 2007 at 12:42pm #

    Who eats the most food?
    How do you make the most money selling food?
    Make more fatties.

  4. DEB-Z said on October 5th, 2007 at 8:16pm #

    40 Years ago people walked to work a few miles from home, to the grocery store on the corner of the street, mothers and or grandmothers frequently cooked fresh veg in pans of boiling water!
    Walked to church/temple, and visit relatives living near by etc….
    Now I am so tired and stressed out from working where most jobs, professions, and homes in the USA are not secure…my children are land I do take out at least 6 days out of 7…I have no time to cook…
    I am exhausted and everyone I know is the same way…more from jobs that are long distance…all the old jobs are sent out of the country and the new ones are not close by!!! Non professionals are taking over professional licensed jobs as well, I have noticed, as a trend.
    Hours of homework and sports, etc for the school children are leaving them exhausted…
    Stress hunger is how I look at it….only escape is to turn on the boob tube and watch the mindless shows…and who remembers if tonight was Burger King, Mc Donalds, DDonuts, KFChicken, Domino’s Pizza, etc…after awhile they all taste alike…
    Then it is time for bed and the rat race again in the morning with take out coffee windows…Oh no forgot to do the laundry! We live in high anxiety and depressing times. People eat and crave carbs when stressed….Has nothing to do with McDonalds or Vegi Burgers…but with a world and country spinning out of control with few
    support systems….Unless you work for the government then just fly first class, get all of your benefits, and think that all the country is feasting on cake!!!!

  5. David Gaines said on October 7th, 2007 at 5:05am #

    I sympathize with DEB-Z and I point to her comments as the reason why I can’t get anywhere around Washington, D.C. on time anymore because of all the accidents on our local highways and interstates.

    Having said that, I’ve always thought it was mighty strange that McDonald’s doesn’t have a counterpart to the BK Veggie. I’m a vegetarian and when I’m in a hurry (which is not 24 hours a day as seems to be the case with the rest of America) I’d like to be able to go through the Mickey D drive-through lane and grab a veggie burger and one of their salad shakes, or salads in a cup, or whatever they call them.