How the McDouble cheeseburger is a superfood

This McDonald's dollar meal provides a whopping dose of protein and calcium as veggies and fruit become 'luxury goods.'

By Aimee Picchi Jul 29, 2013 12:46PM

McDouble cheeseburger (Courtesy of McDonald’s)Sure, Americans are fatter than ever, but the reason might boil down to economics rather than lack of self-control. 

Witness McDonald's (MCD) McDouble cheeseburger. For just $1, consumers receive half their daily serving of protein, 20% of daily calcium and 7% of their daily fiber, the New York Post's Kyle Smith writes. He calls the McDouble "one of the unsung wonders of modern life."

With the McDouble offering a wallop of nutrition on McDonald's dollar menu, Americans have a clear incentive to buy calorie-laden food that nutritionists would never categorize as healthful, given that along with the protein, the McDouble delivers 19 grams of fat. 

While Americans can fill up on burgers without emptying their bank accounts, it's not exactly cheap or time-efficient to subsist on a diet of organic fruits and veggies.

Junk food costs just $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for nutritious food, a 2007 study from University of Washington researchers found.

"Healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Vegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods," Adam Drewnowski, the study's lead author, told The New York Times. 

That's obvious to anyone who has shopped at a farmers market. While the food is undeniably gorgeous and healthful, buying a pint of organic blueberries for $4.18 isn't economically feasible for many Americans. For the one out of seven Americans receiving food stamps -- which have an average monthly benefit of just $133 -- to supplement their grocery budgets, the nutrition and cost balanced in a McDouble likely appear even more attractive. 

Of course, it's possible to eat healthily on a budget. Economics radio show Freakonomics pointed out earlier this month that a serving of brown rice and lentils would cost just 75 cents (although you'd need to set aside at least half an hour to prepare it).

Instead, Americans on a budget are using a simple calculation: How can their dollars most effectively fill them up? Unfortunately for our nation's waistline, the McDouble fits the bill.  

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Jul 29, 2013 2:14PM
The problem is that America subsidizes Corn, Wheat, and Soybeans instead of healthy fruits and vegetables. The farm bill is welfare for the wealthy agro corporations and large land owners while Food stamps are welfare for the poor. If we were to get rid of subsidies for both the wealthy and the poor and use that money to subsidize only fruits and vegetables that provide significant nutritional value then almost everyone could afford a healthy meal at a reasonable price
Jul 29, 2013 2:24PM

McDonalds should be given an award for humanitarianism.  Say what you must but they are everywhere and cheap.  Give an out of luck chap a couple of bucks and McDonalds will take good care of him.
In addition, your kids can likely work there if they don't already.


Feeding the poor.

Employing anyone who needs a job.


For those who are locked and loaded ready to bash my statements, hold on.  Imagine no $3 hot food in every city. 

Jul 29, 2013 1:39PM
Vegetables and fruits becoming "luxury items"? Can Soylent Green be far behind?
Jul 29, 2013 1:47PM
I grow about 60% of the produce my family eats and while I realize that would not be possible for most people even a small garden can be a big deal. It won't save you much money because, as the article points out, you can eat sh!t for next to nothing, but it will drastically improve the quality of your diet. You'll be amazed the first time you eat a tomato as you're standing in the garden if you've never had anything other than those flavorless "organic" tomatoes hydroponically grown in a greenhouse. Yuk
Jul 29, 2013 2:32PM
for those that  are logically trying to figure out the good and bad of cheap McDonalds food I can figure out one thing about you You've never been hungry on a long term basis or at all
Jul 29, 2013 2:34PM
It would be best just to get rid of all subsidies and let the free market (consumers) decide what they want.
Jul 29, 2013 2:39PM

WOW somebody is understanding the real problem MONEY


Jul 29, 2013 2:11PM

It's a false dichotomy to compare price per 1000 calories. Most of us are getting plenty of calories, but are lacking in actual nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, and yes, fat). If you just eat 2000 calories of carbs, you will still be hungry at the end of the day because you didn't do anything useful for your body with those carbs and you caused blood sugar spikes and crashes along the way, whereas if you eat 2000 calories of actual food (or less), you won't feel hungry, because you got what you needed and you didn't experience blood sugar crashes.


If you consider every calorie that you put in your body an investment, you soon realize you're paying too much when you eat junk food, whereas you get a huge bang for your buck for lean fish or beets. The question is not cost per calorie, but cost for the nutrients you need. I've eaten both ways and I coupon. There are fewer coupons for healthy, fresh foods, but because you need less it's pretty comparable in price.


One problem lower-income people _do_ have is that often there aren't stores carrying healthy alternatives near where they live.

Jul 29, 2013 2:02PM
Its considered a super food because it will not decompose.
Jul 29, 2013 2:39PM
Who say's you have to buy organic? Two pints of non organic blueberries where I shop were $1.50 a pint this past week. Beyond blueberries where you get less bang for your buck there are banana's which you can usually get probably around four for $1.  Apples and oranges are usually 2 for $1 or cheaper if you buy a bag.  The point is you can manage to buy fruits and veggies on the cheap if you stick with a budget and get what's on sale.  You don't have to make excuses as Amiee Picchi seems to be doing.
Jul 29, 2013 2:13PM
absolute garbage.  the article and the food. the cost of real food is possible if you dont waste money on garbage from fast food joints nor spend so much on cell phones, starbucks, dope, custom wheels and trendy stuff in general.
Jul 29, 2013 2:23PM
Seems like the majority of the world lives on a diet consisting primarily of beans and rice or beans and corn. Its bland but it works. Its a huge part of my diet because its healthier. Go price out a large sack of either at Walmart or Sams Club. Its all about whats convenient and  what tastes good.
Jul 29, 2013 3:13PM

hmmm, All I can say is that I eat a McDouble about 3-4 times a week. Since I have started that due to economic issues, I have actually lost weight, feel better, and sleep better. Blood work shows no ill effects, and my triglycerides actually went down. Of course this might all be due to the 2 mile walk to McD's in the hot and humid FL weather.


Jul 29, 2013 3:26PM

Vegetables and Fruits becoming luxury foods and a McDouble (without being altered) being called a superfood is a sad day indeed America. We have got to change something and do it now. We need less McD's and more of the fruits and vegetables that many of us don't get now. Remember how we looked on the movie Wall-E? Yes we are going to be living that future unless we make a change.

I think its time

Jul 29, 2013 2:52PM
There aren't any fast food places that can be considered "healthy".  It's all composed of high fat, high sodium, high sugar, sugar substitutes, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, etc, etc...  This is a partial list of bad stuff known to be bad in fast foods.. We have yet to consider the yet to be discovered unknown stuff.  The best thing for all of us to do is to educate ourselves on food labels and what's in the food and possibly how it is produced, then as we mix in intense exercise, we can take control of our health..  Sorry the shake weight or stomach belts or shaking powders on our meals won't help us!  Discipline, education and hard work are the only things that we get obesity under control.  Live Long and Prosper!!
Jul 29, 2013 1:53PM

A Pay Day candy bar is better for you:


Calories 240

Calories from Fat 108

Total Fat 12.0g 18%

Saturated Fat 2.0g 10%

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 190mg 8%

Carbohydrates 27.0g 9%

Dietary Fiber 2.0g 8%

Sugars 21.0g

Protein 6.0g


Jul 29, 2013 4:21PM
Where are you guys buying your fruit and vegetables? I go to Aldi's and buy a weeks worth of healthy food for under $75 for 2 adults. This includes lean meats, fish, and a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit for sides. 

The problem is people don't know how to prepare food. A box of instant whole grain brown rice will give you 10+ servings for under $2. A bag of apples is only a few dollars and gives you at least 6 servings. A McDouble gives you one serving. When you put it into perspective McDonalds isn't so great of a value. 
Jul 29, 2013 1:47PM

390 calories

Over HALF the calories from saturated fat

850 g Sodium (HALF the daily allotment)

23 g protein (doesn't even come close to providing any nutritional value)

The cheese, pickle and other condiments have enough MSG to affect anyone who has an MSG sensitivity.


Add fries and a Coke, wait for a stroke.



Jul 29, 2013 6:33PM

The unfortunate truth is that American's eat for pleasure, not necessity. Pleasure of the senses (taste and endorphins) and ease (like fast food and TV dinners). You could spend 1 dollar on a single McDouble (aprox. 3.2 oz. of "beef" and a cheap bun with some fiber) and call it a meal, or buy 1 lbs. of fresh beef and a bag of wheat buns from your nearest grocery store for around  $5-6 and make 5 fresh burgers... The truth is you aren't saving money, just time and energy; but at what costs?


If we ate what was healthy and necessary (not just tasty and easy), this nation wouldn't be in the "shape" that it is in now and wouldn't be a dime poorer. Doubt me? I lived my entire first year after finishing school off of 6k while building my business. My diet consisted of peanut butter and jam on wheat (not jelly or white sugar bread), canned sardines (actually considered a super food and is only $1 a can on avg.) canned and fresh/frozen vegies, beans, cheap meat, and only water (never sugared down sodas). I never got sick, my weight never fluctuated, I was happy AND able to stay out of debt. Granted, it wasn't always "fun," but since when does eating always have to be fun?


America's health is what it is because of bad habits and unhealthy life styles. In other words, irresponsibility, not financial struggles, is the leading cause of American sickness.

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