McDonald's to roll out healthier Happy Meals menu

Changes coming to McDonald's Happy Meals to improve nutrition

More fruit and veg on McDonald's menus

The company said that by 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the kid's meal options will see new global Happy Meal nutrition criteria.

McDonald's is making Happy Meals healthier.

A spokeswoman said: "We take our responsibility to families very seriously and in the United Kingdom we have, for a long time, been committed to evolving our Happy Meal menu to keep in step with what parents want". In addition, they will downsize the size of the fries served with the six-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal.

By this June, all Happy Meal food combinations offered will be 600 calories or fewer. "Old tricks from an old dog", says Alexa Kaczmarski of Corporate Accountability, a watchdog group that campaigns for McDonald's to change the way it markets to children. And previous year, McDonald's replaced Minute Maid apple juice with its lower-sugar Honest Kids brand juice.

Later this year, bottled water will be added as a featured beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards, however, it will cost extra. Chocolate milk will also remain an option, but in a reformulated version that reduces added sugars.

Wong noted the anti-obesity lobby will not be happy until kid-friendly meals are taken off menus entirely, "but most parents believe Happy Meals are a treat or bribe, and believe that as long as consumption is limited to special occasions, their child is not at risk".

Last month McDonald's in Italy introduced a new Happy Meal entrée called the Junior Chicken -a lean, grilled chicken sandwich. After McDonald's removed soda as a default option for kids, Burger King, Wendy's, Dairy Queen and Jack in the Box followed suit.

Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen and Ronald Mc Donald load up a Happy Meal in Calgary as part of Mc Happy Day
Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen and Ronald Mc Donald load up a Happy Meal in Calgary as part of Mc Happy Day

McDonald's says since 2013, the company has tracked a 14 percent increase in the number of Happy Meals ordered with milk, juice or water. "Children have been found to be unable to discriminate fact from puffery and embellishment in food", he said. A 2014 study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, found that even the healthiest options at fast-food chains were so-so at best.

Cheeseburgers and milkshakes will not be advertised as part of Happy Meal menus worldwideWhen will the new Happy Meals start?

Still, argues Wechsler, it would be a mistake to "let ideal be the enemy of good".

Until then, however, Wechsler said the improvements to McDonald's Happy Meals constitute "real change": a small shift that, at scale, could make a big difference in what many people eat.

The UK's McDonald's menus already adhere to these new standards, so customers won't notice any changes to the current options.

With these planned menu updates, there will be average reductions of 20 percent in calories, 50 percent in added sugars, 13 percent in saturated fat and/or 17 percent in sodium, depending on the customer's specific meal selection. "Sure. But this is important progress".

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