London, Mar 4 (ANI): World's largest fast food chain McDonald's has signed a deal with Weight Watchers to brand some of its meals as "healthy options".
Now three of McDonald's meals, including Chicken McNuggets, which carry the Weight Watchers logo, will be sold in New Zealand from this week and will be introduced into Australia in the next few months.
As part of the deal, McDonald's will use the Weight Watchers logo on its menu boards and Weight Watchers will promote McDonald's food to dieters.
So far, the Fillet-O-Fish, with 18g of fat and 380 calories; Chicken McNuggets, with 29g of fat and 485 calories; and Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap, with 18.8g of fat and 404 calories, have been approved by Weight Watchers.
However, Chicken McNuggets with 485 calories for 10 pieces makes up almost a third of the number of calories the average woman should consume in a day, even when not on a diet.
The NHS recommends women should consume 1,500 calories a day and men 2,000.
Weight Watchers have stated that each meal is worth 6.5 points on the program, which assigns points to food items and allows dieters to consume 18 to 40 points each day to achieve their goal weight.
The move is part of a concerted effort by the McDonald's to shed its reputation for unhealthy, high-fat food in the face of a growing obesity crisis in Australia and New Zealand.
"This is a noble cause," the Telegraph quoted chief executive of McDonald's New Zealand, Mark Hawthorne, as telling the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We serve 1.5 million meals a week in New Zealand to 4 million people and we're making every best effort to generate a change in behaviour, to create an awareness in consumers about making healthy choices," he added.
The fast-food chain has been strongly criticised for its high-calorie menu that includes supersize portions.
"Making every best effort to generate a change in behaviour, to create an awareness in consumers about making healthy choices," he said.
However, obesity experts are not convinced. Nutritionists have said the deal was a simple marketing ploy aimed at luring more customers into McDonald's outlets.
"It's all about sales really," Jane Martin, Australian Obesity Policy Coalition senior adviser, said.
"It implies this food is healthy ... when often it is high in fat and salt. Chicken McNuggets are Chicken McNuggets whether its got Weight Watchers on it or not," she said.
In the last six years McDonald's has introduced salads and fruit onto its menu in a push to provide healthier options.
"We would never have partnered with them if they had not gone on a significant journey of change," the director of business for Weight Watchers Australasia, Chris Stirk, said.
He said people have a greater chance of losing weight and keeping it off when they do not deprive themselves of every indulgence.
Weight Watchers' members appeared divided about the scheme according to comments on their website message board.
"Weight Watchers should be ashamed of doing a deal such as this," wrote one, while another added: "This is all about money and it disgusts me to see WW have sold out." (ANI)