March 3, 2004 -- The question, "Would you like to supersize that?" may soon become a thing of the past. Fast food giant McDonald's says it's phasing out the supersized french fry and drink options from its menu.
The company says eliminating the supersized options is part of an overall effort to pare down menu options and establish a national core menu in all its U.S. restaurants by the end of the year. But McDonald's says the supersized drink will continue to be available on a promotional basis.
Fast food chains have come under growing pressure in recent years to offer healthier menu options to help combat the nation's obesity epidemic. To that end, many companies -- including McDonald's -- have added entrée salads and more fruits, vegetables, and other more nutritious side order options.
But the colossal 42-ounce, 410-calorie supersized soda and 7-ounce, 610-calorie supersized french fries have remained. For years, at the price of only a few cents, customers could "supersize" their meal to include the oversized portions, which are up to five times the recommended serving size.
Once the supersize phase out is complete, the largest french fry size will be the large size, which weighs in at 6.2 ounces and has 540 calories and 26 grams of fat. The largest soft drink size will contain 32 ounces and 310 calories.
Supersized Move in the Right Direction
Nutritionists and critics have welcomed McDonald's move and urge other fast food chains to follow suit.
"McDonald's made a move in the right direction by stopping sales of 'super-sized' French fries and soft drinks," says Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in a news release. "I hope it is an indication that the company is paying more attention to obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related diseases. McDonald's competitors should immediately follow suit and begin normal-sizing their largest menu items."
Experts say cutting back on portion sizes is a good start to helping people get their fast food eating habits under control.
"Phasing out supersized fries and drinks is a great move because it appeals to so many people because it's such an inexpensive option," says Kathleen Zelman, RD, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. "But in terms of health and calories, it's a very expensive option."
But they also say the company could do more than just reduce portion sizes to improve the nutritional value of its menu options.
"How about adding some nutritional goodness with a whole-grain bun, more vegetables, and baby carrots as a side option instead of french fries?" says Zelman.
In addition, Jacobson says he's skeptical because the last time McDonald's made a major announcement in 2002 about improving the nutritional content of their food by promising to eliminate artery-clogging trans fats from its cooking oils, the company later postponed the plan.