McDonald’s has never really been known as a place to go for a healthy meal. Now they are trying to change their image, and are hoping consumers will respond positively.
McDonald’s is attempting to create healthier Happy Meals and the first area to test the new menu is Chicago. In this new Happy Meal, kids will get less fries, some apple slices and milk instead of the standard Happy Meal components. McDonald’s has offered fruit as a substitution to fries for many years in the Happy Meal, but it had to be requested until now.
The default for Happy Meals has always been French fries and the drink of your choice alongside a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets. The new healthier option will be the first time that the Happy Meals will default to a fruit in an effort to address the challenges kids face in meeting the recommended daily consumption of produce. McDonald’s has plans to roll this Happy Meal out to all of their locations by March.
One of my memories as a child was going to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal. (It happened maybe once every six months.) I knew that my mom didn’t think that the Happy Meal was a healthy meal, but it was a treat. I still wanted to eat it more often, like my friend Beth, whose parents took her to McDonald’s every week. My mom didn’t think it was healthy, and so we weren’t allowed to have it often.
The Happy Meal that I remember is still the same. The hamburger, fries and a drink meal that was first debuted more than 30 years ago has remained virtually unchanged, although apples and low-fat milk were introduced as options in 2004 in an effort to make the kids favorite more healthy. Unless specifically requested, however, each Happy Meal included a 2.4 ounce serving of french fries. Now that I have children, I (shh!) make the same choice as my own mother – McDonald’s isn’t a healthy choice for my family and so we visit rarely.
McDonald’s is hoping to change our minds.
When I was a little kid, I wanted to go to McDonald’s every week to get the newest Happy Meal toy. Sure, the food was yummy, but my main motivation was definitely the toy. Now, toys in Happy Meals and other fast food meals are facing extinction as new legislation is attempting to decrease childhood obesity in our country spreads from San Francisco to other cities, such as New York City.
Many activists – including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, and obesity experts at Tufts University – are claiming that the toys used to promote children’s fast food meals are a main contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. They claim that these toys encourage children to eat unhealthier meals, such as chicken nuggets and french fries.
Although this can be the case at times (as it was for me when I was younger), banning these restaurants from using toys to promote their products does not seem right to me. McDonald’s, Sonic, and several other fast food restaurants have started offering milk and juice with their kids’ meals instead of soda. They are also offering apple slices instead of french fries. When it comes down to it, it is the parent’s responsibility to monitor what their child eats; the parents allow their children to order sugary sodas and fattening french fries. Banning restaurants from using promotional items will not stop parents from buying their children unhealthy foods.
Do your children love hitting McDonald’s for their weekly Happy Meal, adding to their collection of toys and collectibles? If you live in San Francisco, this popular activity is no longer an option. After weeks of debating the topic, the San Francisco board of directors has taken steps to ban the sale of toys with fast food kids’ meals.
From the Chicago Tribune:
“Under the ordinance, scheduled to take effect in December 2011, restaurants may include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 35 percent of the calories come from fat….
The ordinance also would require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys.” (more…)
They may be called Happy Meals, but many parents aren’t very happy with how they have to battle their children when they see their favorite cartoon character happens to be a toy in the popular fast food kids lunches.
Maybe they are at their wits end, but some parents have decided to take legal action. With childhood obesity rates going through the roof, some parents think that desperate measures need to be taken. Which may explain why last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) served McDonald’s with a notice of intent to sue if the fast food restaurant continues to promote Happy Meals with toys.
McDonald’s Restaurants in Canada are changing things up when it comes to some of the Happy Meal options on their menu. These child-oriented meals are going to be altered to have lower sodium in such items as the grilled chicken snack wrap. While this change entails decreasing the excess sodium in a variety of products, my hope is that this will lead to impacting other menu items as well.
This move comes at a time when the focus in Canada and the rest of the world are working to counteract the obesity and health crisis we are all facing. Fast food restaurants often find the finger being pointed at them for contributing to the epidemic, which makes these types of changes extremely important.