McDonald’s: A healthier Happy Meal?

Bad publicity has spurred McDonald’s to make changes in its Happy Meal.

Happy Meals are one step closer to becoming healthy meals, said KJ Dell’Antonia in After being hit with “a barrage of bad publicity” over the poor nutritional content of their kids’ offering, McDonald’s last week announced it would cut the meal’s portion of fries in half and include apple slices. Tots will also be offered low-fat milk as an alternative to sugary sodas. The makeover will reduce the Happy Meal’s calories by 20 percent and slash sodium by almost a quarter, which is a “small but meaningful” move in the right direction, said David Perlmutter in While the numbers could be better, any change to the fast food that makes up such a significant chunk of the American diet “will have important health upsides.”

Behold the nanny state in action, said Emily Miller in The Washington Times. McDonald’s was “battered into downgrading its beloved” kids’ meal by do-gooders such as Michelle Obama and San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which actually banned the Happy Meal last November, claiming it was too fattening and didn’t include enough fruit and vegetables. A New York councilman then proposed a similar law. But don’t blame Ronald McDonald for supersizing our kids. The real culprits are “absentee parents who allow video games to substitute for exercise and mac ’n’ cheese to take the place of roast chicken and green beans.” Parents may discover that McDonald’s new menu ends up adding to our nation’s obesity problem, said Walter Olson in the New York Daily News. The portion of fries in the current Happy Meal is so big that many kids share it with Mom and Dad. Deprived of this snack, some adults will no doubt order their own. “I wonder whether anyone at McDonald’s headquarters has thought of that.”

Indeed, this whole exercise reeks of corporate cynicism, said Marion Nestle in By adding three or four small slices of apple to the Happy Meal and removing a single ounce of French fries, the company has won huge amounts of positive press. If McDonald’s were serious about fighting childhood obesity, it would dump the cheeseburgers and Chicken McNuggets, and offer a truly healthy Happy Meal, backed by plenty of marketing dollars. It would also toss out the free toys, which forge a powerful connection between young minds and high-calorie treats. Until then, “I’m not impressed.”

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