One Food Critic Is Making Healthy Oatmeal His Mission

Photo: McDonalds Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
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McDonald's sells its oatmeal as a healthy breakfast alternative, but according to one food critic, it includes too many not-so-healthy ingredients.

Its new oatmeal, which McDonald's released nationwide last month as a "bowl full of wholesome," is actually a crock full of something else, according to Mark Bittman, a food author and blogger for The New York Times.

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"It's put forward as this wholesome thing when, in fact, it's sort of an amalgam of ingredients you wouldn't ordinarily have at home," he said.

The oatmeal bought in any grocery store across the country only has one ingredient, oats. But McDonald's oatmeal has 21 ingredients, including natural flavor, barley malt extract and caramel color.

"I think it's misleading to portray this as a healthy breakfast because the McDonald's oatmeal has about the same amount of sugar as a Snickers bar, has about the same amount of calories as one of their hamburgers, costs more than one of their hamburgers," Bittman said. "It's just an odd way to go about serving a healthy breakfast."

Julia Braun, a registered dietitian for McDonald's USA, points out that people also add ingredients to the oatmeal they buy in the store.

"Nobody really eats just rolled oats, you need to put things in it to make oatmeal," she said. She also said it's misleading to compare McDonald's oatmeal to a Snickers bar.

"About half (of the sugar) comes from natural sources," she said of McDonald's oatmeal. "That's providing a half a cup of fruit, or a quarter of your day's fruit."

"The vast majority of sugar comes from brown sugar and the naturally ocurring sugar in the apples, raisins and craberries - all of which are optional," said McDonald's in a statement.

The sugar is optional, but you have to ask not to get it.

The company worked on the roll-out of its oatmeal for more than a year. ABC News' John Berman taste tested some at its headquarters last summer.

Best Option: Make It at Home

The calorie count in McDonald's oatmeal is hardly outlandish, at 290 calories fully loaded with cream and fruit. Plain oats -- with no additives -- are 150 calories per serving, before adding any sugar, syrup or fruits.

Bittman said the best option is to make it at home.

"You're saving money and you're dealing with something that's really straightforward," he said. "A natural product that only has in it what you want to put in it."

Takes Longer but It's Yours

One producer timed herself making her own serving. It took her 9 minutes. Maybe not super fast-food, but at least it's your food.

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