Takeaway Truth is an occasional Lifehacker feature where we compare marketing images against what you actually get served. Today: McDonald's Real Choices Crunchy Noodle Chicken Salad and Warm Chicken Salad.
Fast food restaurants have been known to gild the lily when it comes to accurate depictions of their menu items. Far too often, the mouth-watering feast on the poster turns out to be a limp and oily morsel. In a bid to keep the fry-jockey overlords honest, we've decided to document the reality of fast food -- it was either that, or go postal like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
In a bid to retain health-conscious customers, McDonald's has introduced a new "Real Choices" concept to its menu with a focus on vaguely nutritious food options.
The Real Choices range comprises a trio of chicken wraps reminiscent of Red Rooster's 'RoosterRap' Range, a handful of breakfast items and two new salads: the Crunchy Noodle Chicken Salad and Warm Chicken Salad.
The Warm Chicken Salad comes with a choice of crispy or grilled "100% Australian" chicken, a mixture of iceberg and cos lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, red onion and grape tomatoes with a choice of Balsamic, Sweet Sesame and Zesty Portuguese dressings. The Crunchy Noodle Chicken Salad is basically the same meal with crunchy noodles added to the mix.
The Warm Grilled Chicken Salad has a total energy count of 745 kilojoules (or 1210kJ for the crispy chicken version) while the Crunchy Noodle Chicken Salad comes in at a heftier 2020kJ/2480kJ (for grilled and crispy chicken respectively.)
We wouldn't have thought that a sprinkling of fried noodles would more than double the amount kilojoules, but there you go. It's also worth noting that the above kilojoule count does not include the dressings, which pack in an additional 1040kJ, 951kJ and 103kJ for the Zesty Portuguese, Sweet Sesame and Balsamic, respectively.
You can check out an advertisement for the McDonald's range below.
To find out how McDonald's Real Choice salads compare to their zesty marketing images, we grabbed one of each from an outlet in Blaxland, NSW.
The first thing that stands out about these salads is their size -- the bowl is much larger than the TV adverts let on, which is a refreshing reversal of the norm (i.e. -- the real product usually looks smaller.) To put it another way, Seinfeld fans who regularly frequent McDonald's finally have a "big salad" to call their own. Huzzah!
However, while being generously sized is definitely a bonus, that's only part of the battle won. How do the actual ingredients stack up? Here's how each salad looks compared to the image on McDonald's website, along with our score for each:
McDonald's 'Real Choices' Warm Chicken Salad
There's not much to complain about with this salad -- the vegetables are abundant and colourfully crisp looking, the chicken portions are roughly similar (albeit less tactfully arranged) and there's a good mix of ingredients instead of falling back on cheap lettuce. The amount of salad does seem slightly more generous in the advertised image, but we'll put that down to a trick of perspective. For the introductory price of $6.95 this is pretty hard to fault.
Truth Rating: 9/10
McDonald's 'Real Choices' Crunchy Noodle Chicken Salad
Oh dear. Someone appears to have forgotten about our noodles. We checked the bag to see if you're supposed to add them yourself but to no avail. While we're sure this is a semi-isolated incident we can only judge by what we were given and this meal clearly fails to live up to its promise ("crunchy noodles" is even in the product name!) In addition to the missing noodles, the chicken crumbs appear coarser and decidedly less golden. The salad is suspiciously low in the bowl too.
Truth Rating: 5/10
All in all, the Real Choices Chicken Salad Range is a worthy addition to Ronald's menu. Provided your local store has adequately trained staff who don't forget to add the noodles, you can expect the marketing to match the real thing.
Which fast food franchise or menu item would you like us to tackle next? Let us know in the comments section below.