The so-called “diet problem” is familiar to many students of optimization. The idea is to select the cheapest set of items from a menu that meets certain dietary restrictions, such as the amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and so on. The AMPL book features a version of this problem based on the McDonald’s menu from some time back. The original data (which I am pretty sure dates back to a 1993 paper from Robert Bosch) is right here.
That got me thinking – has this information changed during the last 20 years? Yes, it has – and it appears for the worse. I retrieved updated information from the McDonald’s website and compared the items from the “diet1.dat” example.
In the table below I have listed the information from diet1.dat side-by-side with the 2012 information, for the menu items that appear in both. Places where the 2012 nutrition is worse are highlighted in red; green means better. I left carbs and protein alone since people have different views on what is “better”. As you can see, nearly all the items have more calories. To be fair, it’s not clear whether portion sizes are bigger – but my bet is that they are not (call me a cynic).
|Calories||Carbohydrates||Protein||Vitamin A||Vitamin C||Calcium||Iron|
|Quarter Pounder® with Cheese||510||520||34||42||28||30||15||10||6||2||30||30||20||25|
|Small French Fries||220||230||26||29||3||3||0||0||15||8||0||2||2||4|
|1% Lowfat Milk||110||100||12||12||9||8||10||10||4||4||30||30||0||0|
I’ll share the complete data in a future post.
(Two notes: for “McGrilled Chicken” I used the 2012 information for “Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich”, and for Orange Juice the 1993 numbers were clearly for an 8 ounce serving so I divided 2012 numbers by two.)