With almost 200 McDonald’s locations in New Jersey, Happy Meals just got happier for many Garden State families. In September, McDonald’s began the rollout of new, healthier Happy Meals that include both apple slices and fries with fat-free beverage choices. McDonald’s aims to have improved nutrition Happy Meals in all 14,000 restaurants, nationwide, during the first quarter of 2012. The nutritional change is sure to appeal to health conscious parents, whose children clamor for popular Happy Meals.
Research points the way
In response to scientific research pinpointing concern about childhood fitness and weight, McDonald’s has made the commitment to offer improved nutritional choices to families and children in all their restaurants. The Institute of Medicine at the National Academies highlighted in a June, 2011, report, “Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies,” that “even the youngest children in the United States are at risk of becoming obese. Today, almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers carry excess weight for their length, and slightly more than 20 percent of children between the ages of two and five are already overweight or obese.”
The critical nature of the nation’s nutritional health problem in children is echoed by another 2011 report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future, issued by the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health. That second report indicates that obesity currently affects more than 12 million children and adolescents.
Can knowledge make a difference?
Apples have been a requested choice option in Happy Meals since 2004, but apples weren’t a common request when a Happy Meal was ordered. Recent research found that on average, 88 percent of McDonald’s customers, while aware of the option, chose fries 89% of the time. Now, apples and a smaller portion size of fries will be a routine part of the improved Happy Meals resulting in 20% less calories and reduced fat.
The new and happier nutrition Happy Meal automatically includes both produce (apple slices, a quarter cup or half serving) and a new, smaller size French fries portion (1.1 ounces) along with the choice of a Hamburger, Cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets, and a beverage choice that includes new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low fat white milk. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apple slices will be available, upon request.
Additionally, through its support of the Council of Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, McDonald’s was actively engaged in the CBBB’s development of stricter sodium and sugar standards and zero grams artificial trans fat per labeled serving. McDonald’s already has reduced sodium by 10 percent in the majority of its national chicken menu offerings – most recently Chicken McNuggets®, a Happy Meal favorite. By 2015, McDonald’s will reduce sodium an average of 15 percent overall across its national menu of food choices.
Start wherever you can
Adam Drewnowski, PhD, Director of University of Washington’s Center for Obesity Research, welcomes the nutritional improvements. He states, “These types of incremental improvements in popular meals can have a broad impact on public health.” Cindy Goody, PhD, MBA, RD, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition, concurs, indicating, “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. 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.”
Eat healthy, any time and any place
Healthy nutrition for kids, whether dining out or eating at home, is critical. McDonald’s recognizes that knowledgeable, concerned parents know the importance of wise dietary choices for children. This autumn’s healthier changes in McDonald’s Happy Meals means it just got easier for families, in New Jersey and nationwide, to help kids eat well. A healthier Happy Meal with its kid-friendly toy means healthier, happy eating is a part of the dining picture, both at home and away.