Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

More Apples, Less Fries: New Look For McDonald’s Happy Meals

With a smaller portion of fries and apple slices automatically included, McDonald's is trying to make its Happy Meals healthy (relatively speaking).

mcdonalds happy meal with soda, hamburger, fries

Photo: Calgary Reviews (Flickr)

Come September, Happy Meals will include 1.1 ounces of french fries - more than half what is currently being offered.

Happy Yet Healthy

After endless criticism about enticing kids to eat its unhealthy fast food by pairing it with toys, and calls for its red-headed and floppy-shoed spokesman to retire, McDonald’s has made a change to how it feeds children.

Coming in September, Happy Meals will now automatically be served with a quarter-cup of apple slices, and the serving size of french fries will be cut in half to 1.1 ounces. (Parents could request two servings of apples in lieu of the fries.) The choice of beverage will also include fat-free chocolate milk and 1 percent low fat white milk. These changes will result in a reported 20 percent reduction in calories.

Changes to the rest of McDonald’s food items will come by 2015, as the restaurant chain promises a 15 percent reduction in sodium across its entire menu.

Check-Ups

McDonald’s has offered healthful options in its kids meals since 2004, but apples were chosen in only 11 percent of purchases. Research by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale also showed that French fries and soft drinks were automatically served as part of kids’ meals at various fast food restaurants more than half the time.

To monitor its progress, McDonald’s will be creating the Kids’ Food and Nutrition Advisory Board, a third-party group made up of parents and experts in children’s nutrition, education and behavior.

Focus On The Bottom Line

But this decision by America’s leading fast food restaurant may be about more than just improving the nutrition of its kids’ meals.

“This is good publicity, and if you sell more Happy Meals, you’re likely selling more Big Macs to the parents,” says Peter Saleh, a restaurant analyst with Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

Read More:

  • McDonald’s® Announces Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices (McDonald’s Press Release)
  • McDonald’s Move May Make Healthy Business Sense (NPR)
Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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  • Heatherltallman

    Great post!  You know how I feel about McD’s… 

  • James Carson

    erm caption fail? shouldn’t that be ‘less’ than half??

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christina-Berg/100001549893134 Christina Berg

    Apple dippers in caramel syrup is not healthy, I agree that mcdonalds is unhealthy, but ask yourself if you cook french fries, beef, and cheese for dinner, its junk food, but its the staples, folks for instance banned potatoes from WIC because young toddlers don’t  need the starch (WIC is geared for folks who don’t have varying diets and just consumer basics for development and cannot be a food stamp model).

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