Does a Low-Cal Menu Make Any Sense for McDonald’s?

McDonald's Dollar Menu is the stuff of fast-food fantasies. Fries, only a buck? Apple pie, only a buck? But with obesity rates rising and accusations flying in the face of the burger behemoth, a new menu section is getting some fanfare: the under-400-calories menu.

In time for the 2012 Summer Olympics—at which McDonald's plans to sell more than 50,000 Big Macs from its largest location to date—the franchise is releasing a new menu category that appeals to the weight watchers among us. The "Favorites Under 400 Calories" menu groups together all items that Mickey D's fans can eat without absurdly exceeding a normal amount of calories for a meal. Among the 400-friendly are the medium fries, Filet-O-Fish, and Oreo McFlurries.

There's also a 300-Calorie menu to entice the truly strong-willed customers. On it, Southwest Salads and Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothies, among other items, reports the Chicago Tribune

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When charged with serving up fatty food at an event devoted to athleticism by the London Assembly, McDonald's scoffed and pointed to the porridge, bagels, and salad options it will be offering at the Olympics. "Ultimately it's up to individuals to make the right food, drink, and activity choices for themselves," a McDonald's spokesperson told Time Magazine.

But digging in your heels isn't typically a fruitful business model, and Mickey D's—for profit or for the good of mankind's waistlines—is making small changes nonetheless.

Singing an entirely different tune than last month's spokesperson, McDonald's U.S. chief marketing officer Neil Golden told the Tribune that he and McDonald's "want customers to understand that they have food that they love, but food that they can feel good about enjoying regularly."

Give us your thoughts: Do McDonald's motivations matter, or is any change toward healthier menu options a good thing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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A sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, Megan likes writing about food almost as much as eating it. If you don't want to know what's in your fruit/milk/meat, don't invite her to lunch. @babybokchoy |