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Houston teams with McDonald's to fight fat

McDonald's said it would offer a special low-fat menu along with regular fare at Houston restaurants.
McDonald's said it would offer a special low-fat menu along with regular fare at Houston restaurants.

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Diet and Fitness
Houston (Texas)
McDonald's Corporation

HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) -- Houston, we think we know why you have a problem.

In a bid to see its residents lose weight and get fit, the nation's fattest city turned on Tuesday to an unlikely partner -- McDonald's.

The fast-food giant which brought the world belt-busting Big Macs and Quarter Pounders was named the official restaurant sponsor of Get Lean Houston, a civic fitness program created after Men's Fitness magazine named the city the nation's fattest three years in a row.

Echoing a trend in the food industry to offer healthier options, McDonald's said along with its traditional burgers and fries it would offer a special low-fat menu of salads, chicken sandwiches and a veggie burger in its 253 Houston restaurants, as well as tips on how to get fit.

It plans to distribute pedometers to encourage customers to walk off those extra pounds.

"McDonald's is a restaurant giant. The positive impact we can have on the, in short, huge," Lee Labrada, a former Mr. Universe who is running the Get Lean Houston program, told a news conference.

Ronald McDonald, the chain's trademark yellow-clad clown, came racing into the news conference shouting, "Hello Houston, let's get moving," then led the crowd, which included Mayor Lee Brown, in a few simple exercises to help burn calories.

Don Thompson, president of McDonald's West division, said the fact the company had 253 restaurants in Houston did not make it part of the city's fat problem. The problem, he said, was lack of exercise.

"We've had a number of McDonald's in Houston for a long time. We've had a number of McDonald's all over the globe for a long time. There were McDonald's when I was a kid, but we didn't have the obesity problem we have today. If you think about, we were much more active," he said.

"I don't believe obesity is a McDonald's problem. I do believe it's going to take the McDonald's of the world to take a leadership role to move forward on this."

The challenge in Houston will be a formidable one, starting with the company's own people.

Doug Adcock, head of the association of McDonald's owners and operators in Houston, said the group had decided to encourage its members and its employees to lose weight.

"After looking at the math calculations, we think we can lose over four tons of fat next year, so we're looking forward to the challenge," he said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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