Just because I’ve got to start somewhere, my first data science and analysis portfolio is around something that I love: food. And therefore I’ll let you face the following: McDonald’s vs ‘Full English Breakfast’, a comparison.
First things first. I truly hope that everyone knows or at least realizes that most food from McDonalds is not the healthiest food. But at the same time it’s a huge success in the UK. According to information on their own website they serve an average of 3,5 million meals a day and in January 2020 they even announced to open op 60 more restaurants across the UK. If that’s going ahead now with the Covid-19 pandemic I don’t know, but the fact that they were planning on to, says enough I reckon. But what is actually in their food? I mean calorie wise, carbs, protein, fat, and so on. I definitely don’t want to scare you but my own curiosity made me do this analysis.
While analyzing McDonald’s food, someone made me aware of the quite common ‘Full English Breakfast’, which is basically on every breakfast menu in every coffee shop around the UK. It made me curious what nutritions are actually in a ‘Full English Breakfast’. To get a fully integrated overview to be able to compare it properly, I combined two separate datafiles into one to go from there.
A full english breakfast contains the following ingredients for my analysis:
1 fried egg, 2 slices of bacon, 1/2 medium tomato, 32 gr. sauteed mushroom, 1 slice buttered toast, 2 sausages, 1/2 cup baked beans, 1 black pudding. Of course, there is plenty of variation and calories differ depending on where and how it’s made, but this full English breakfast contains about 895 calories.
It’s a full on breakfast, and the breakfast options for McDonald’s are much smaller, but the analysis will work allright with that.
When I analyse, I prefer to start brought, and narrow data down to work towards a conclusion by cleaning data, deleting data, excluding data & filter data. Often you can start from different angles, depending on your goal, question or hypothesis. In this case, after getting a feel for the data, checking for missing data & deleting unnecessary data I start with a (descriptive) sugars analysis.
I start with a descriptive analysis to make it possible to take necessary steps for further analysis after. Below I show you a figure of all breakfast options, including the full english breakfast, and its nutrients.
When I analyse, I prefer to start brought, and narrow data down to work towards a conclusion by cleaning data, deleting rows, & excluding data. Often you can start from different angles, depending on your goal, question or hypothesis.
Surprisingly there’s two breakfast options that really stand out with their amount of sugars. Cinnamon melts and the fruit and maple oatmeal breakfast. Their amount of sugar is over 30 gram per serving. Knowing the recommended amount of sugar a day is 40 grams, means that you already have had 80%(!) of your daily recommended intake by just eating this. If you look more closely at the ingredients on the McDonald’s website, brown sugar is on the third ingredient after water and whole grain rolled oats, which explains why this dish is so high in sugar. Definitely not the best way to start your day in my opinion.
The McGriddles are quite a bit higher in sugar (around 15 grams per portion) and so are the big breakfasts with hotcakes in it. The ‘Full English Breakfast’ is in this category as well. 15 grams of sugar is not necessarily bad, but looking at the breakfast options it’s most likely that those 15 grams of sugar dishes mostly have refined sugar in them as there is probably not much of fruit involved in them. Therefore I would not recommend any of those breakfast options, based on the amounts of sugar.
Looking at the other breakfast options, most biscuit dishes contain less than 5 grams of sugar, and also the big breakfasts, as long as you avoid the hotcakes. So, just looking at the sugar in those dishes, choosing one of those is actually not too bad to start your day. If you wanna go completely sugar free, according to the McDonald’s data, the hash brown does not have any sugar. Whether you could live on that for breakfast I question strongly…
An important note to make is that you shouldn’t instantly run to McDonald to get this breakfast because there always is more involved than sugar. In order to continue my analysis I decided to have a look at calories per dish and based on the findings, split the breakfasts based on sugar. One with ‘high – sugar’ dishes and one with ‘low – sugar’ dishes to do more in-depth analysis.
Looking at the figure above the big breakfasts and the full english breakfast are by far the highest in calories. Not very surprising knowing that those dishes are the biggest of the whole list anyway. The McGriddles are roughly second and the biscuits are third. Even tho the oatmeal and cinnamon melts are high in sugar, they are not the highest in calories. This confirms as well in both ways that there is more to it than ‘just’ calories, or ‘just’ sugars. Time to go more in-depth.
High sugar dishes
I define ‘high – sugar’ dishes as dishes with more than 5 grams of sugar, as the breakfast options have mostly added sugar. Most breakfasts shown most likely do not contain any ‘good – sugars’ as most of the dishes don’t have any fruit listed.
Shown in the tables above, it’s not very surprising that from McDonald’s, the big breakfasts contain the most carbs and fat. The big breakfasts and bagels contain the most protein, probably because of the hight amount of eggs. Somehow surprising for me is that the ‘Full English Breakfast’ is a serious ‘high in everything breakfast’. High in sugar, high in calories, high in fat and high in protein. It’s only quite low in carbs.
I knew McDonald’s is definitely not the healthiest, and of course a ‘Full English Breakfast’ is quite a lot, but comparing those two truly is an eye-opener for me. I did not expect a ‘Full English Breakfast’ to score higher on a lot of nutrition facts than the McDonald’s food! I would almost say, you better go to McDonalds than ordering a ‘Full English Breakfast’ in a coffee shop on a Sunday morning……
Low sugar & low calories
Let’s continue with our low sugar analysis..
The low sugar products have quite a mixture of other nutrients in them. The big breakfasts (of course) stand out, having the highest amount of carbs, fat and protein compared to the rest of the options. Which makes sense. Protein is quite high in all of the dishes, because of the eggs, cheese, meet combination that naturally contains quite some protein, which is not necessarily bad for you.
I’ll go one step deeper and check for calories for breakfast with a low amount of sugar (<5 gr). Calories: A supposedly healthy breakfast contains about 350-400 calories, according to the NHS. How’s that comparing to the low sugar group of dishes? Therefore I filtered the dishes with less then 450 calories to get a more in-dept overview.
A ‘healthy’ breakfast
I looked specifically at dishes that are around 350 – 400 calories, ideally high in protein, low in fat and average in carbs. This is because protein fills you up and keep you full for longer, it helps spreading the glucoses retrieved from your food slower, carbs are good to give you energy for the day and fat is something that you can’t have too much from, but your body needs it to function.
There’s three dishes that come close to matching the healthy breakfast standard:
- Steak & Egg McMuffin
- Bacon & Egg & Cheese Biscuit with Egg Whites (regular biscuit)
- Southern Style Chicken Biscuit ((regular biscuit)
Is this what I think it is?
All three breakfast options are all just above 400 calories, which is not that much higher compared to a supposedly healthy start of the day breakfast which contains 350 – 400 calories.
- The Southern Style Chicken Biscuit (regular biscuit) is (like all of them) low in sugar, but has just over 40 gram of carbs, which is about the same amount as the carbs in a healthy (overnight) oats breakfast. The 20 grams of fat is quite hight compared to a healthy breakfast, but if you look at the recommended daily intake, it’s about 50% of your daily intake. So if you keep the fats low for the rest of the day, it’s not too bad.
- The Bacon & Egg & Cheese Biscuit with Egg Whites (regular biscuit) has slightly over 35 grams of carbs, which is slightly low for a breakfast. The amount of fat and protein both is 20 grams per serving. For protein that’s a decent amount to start the day and much higher than the amount of protein in a healthy breakfast. The amount of fat is just like the Southern Style Chicken Biscuit ((regular biscuit) about 50% of the total recommended daily intake.
- Steak & Egg McMuffin. From this top 3, Steak & eEgg McMuffin has the lowest amount of carbs but scores higher in protein (25+ gram) & fat (23 gram).
Over all conclusion is that the ‘Full English Breakfast’ is not a better or healthier option than McDonalds breakfast on all nutrition values. If you’re craving for a McDonald’s breakfast, (something a lot of people probably do every now and then) you can still get quite a decent breakfast. Of the top three, bases on low sugar and ‘low’ calories, the Bacon & Egg & Cheese Biscuit with Egg Whites (regular biscuit) seems to be the most average / decent option. If you prefer high protein, the steak & egg McMuffin can be a good option. If you prefer slightly higher carbs, the Southern Style Chicken Biscuit (regular biscuit) could be a good option. But over all the differences are fairly small and all of them are close to the healthy breakfast, based on calories and low amount of sugar.
Honestly, I’m positively surprised. Nevertheless, I will say again that I don’t say you can run to McDonald’s and have this breakfast everyday for the rest of your life. I just point out my findings and if you crave McDonald’s those three options are surprisingly alright.
Of course, you can also just decide to go for a full english breakfast or the big breakfast with hotcakes and a large biscuit (1360 cal) for all I care, but now at least you know a bit more what you’re stuffing yourself with.