Healthier Menu Changes McDonald's Made After Super Size Me's Bombshell Release

Director Morgan Spurlock, who had audiences seriously reconsidering their love of McDonald's back in 2004 with the release of the documentary "Super Size Me," died from cancer complications at the age of 53 on May 23, 2024, reports The Associated Press. "Morgan gave so much through his art, ideas and generosity," the director's brother Craig said in a press statement. "The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I am so proud to have worked together with him."

2021 statistics from Global Data revealed that approximately 70 million people hit the McDonald's drive-thru on a daily basis. Serving customer favorites like the McGriddles breakfast sandwich, Egg McMuffin, and their famous Happy Meal for kids, audiences followed Spurlock on his 30-day journey of consuming a McDonald's-exclusive diet. The film served as a call to action for the restaurant industry to provide healthier menu options for consumers. Here's how McDonald's responded in the aftermath of the film's release.

McDonald's promptly withdrew their super size menu option

The Academy Award-nominated documentary highlights how Spurlock experienced weight gain, as well as negative effects on his physical and mental health as a result of following a McDonald's-only diet. With the film's sky-high success, the biggest change McDonald's promptly implemented was pulling their Super Size menu options, which Spurlock exposes as being packed with fat, calories, and sugar. The film also takes aim at the restaurant industry's marketing tactics, much of which the documentary points out is geared towards young kids.

However, rumors have since circulated on social media that McDonald's Super Size menu may not be gone for good, according to The Mirror US. "In a recent interview with the executives, [McDonald's] announced they are going to focus on bigger portions and bigger burgers, which leads me to believe they are going to revisit supersize items," former McDonald's corporate chef Mike Haracz speculated in a TikTok video in January 2024.

McDonald's switched up their menu and their marketing after the film's release

While the Golden Arches chain may have improved their menu by removing some of their unhealthier options, did they add any healthier menu items in its place? In a "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken" clip released in 2019, Spurlock discussed whether McDonald's menu options had taken a turn for the better (via UPI). While some of their food items received a branding makeover, such as the Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwich, Spurlock felt there were no improvements in the taste of the restaurant's chicken sandwich items. McDonald's also upgraded their marketing by changing up their decor, opting for biodegradable cardboard packaging, and promoting words such as "healthy," "natural," and "organic" in their messaging. You can also now find salad and fruit options on the menu.

While the effectiveness of McDonald's menu changes may be up for debate, the film had the restaurant industry and consumers as a whole rethinking their choices when it comes to a healthy diet. Following the documentary's release, The Associated Press reported there was an uptick in messaging of freshness and ethically-sourced ingredients across the restaurant industry. Yet some have remained skeptical. "There has been this massive shift and people say to me, 'So has the food gotten healthier?'" Spurlock told the outlet in 2019. "And I say, 'Well, the marketing sure has.'"