Healthier Happy Meals

McDonald’s to offer more fruit, fewer fries with kids’ meals

McDonald’s announced a new nutrition program in July that will improve the nutritional value of its meals, particularly the company’s kid’s Happy Meals.

According to McDonald’s, Happy Meals will automatically include a fruit side and low-fat milk, and a smaller 1.1-ounce portion of french fries. The immediate impact will be a 20 percent reduction in calories in the most popular Happy Meals. The new lineup will be the default order, but customers can substitute the milk for a soft drink or a second order of french fries instead of the fruit side.

Communications to children will be changed to include nutritional messages, including marketing programs and packaging.

“Recent research has shown that younger children are consuming more fruits and vegetables, but we still have a long way to go to increase consumption to meet daily recommendations for these important food groups,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation. “McDonald’s announcement to include apples in every Happy Meal and being the first quick service restaurant to do so – further strengthens their seven years of support in our campaign to educate children and their parents on the benefits of fruits and vegetables.”

McDonald’s said it would continue to build on its nutrition programs, and by 2020 the company said it would reduce sugars, saturated fats and calories through “varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovation.” By 2015, McDonald’s will reduce sodium by 15 percent overall across its menu items. The company already has reduced sodium in one of its most popular Happy Meal items – chicken nuggets, which has seen a 10 percent reduction in sodium.

The company will continue to tweak the Happy Meals as new research and insights to consumer behavior becomes available. McDonald’s has been working with suppliers and other groups to improve the healthful attributes of its menu, and said it would roll out additional fruit and vegetable options over the next few years.

“McDonald’s agrees with leading food and nutrition experts that making incremental lifestyle modifications with food consumption may lead to improvements in an individual’s well-being,” said Cindy Goody, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition. “We support parents in their effort to encourage their children to enjoy the foods that are good for them along with the foods they love.”

The new Happy Meals will be rolled out this month and available at all 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants by the end of the first quarter of 2012.




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