McDonald's has always been accused of serving up unhealthy fast food, not least to kids in its Happy Meals. All that is about to change with a shift in the business's approach to nutrition.

Maressa Brown
February 15, 2018

Whether they regularly hit up fast food chains or go on a more sporadic basis, most parents would prefer that these ubiquitous establishments offered more nutritionally sound options for their kids. That end game may very well be in sight. McDonald's announced today, Thursday, February 15 that they're setting their sights on shaping up their Happy Meal offerings to make parents happier and kids healthier.

The fast food chain said it aims to serve more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, and water in Happy Meals, while simultaneously reducing the combos' calories, fat, sodium and added sugar. More specifically, by 2022, cheeseburgers won't be part of the menu for the kids' meals (but parents can still order them). The main options will be regular hamburgers and four- and six-piece Chicken McNuggets, and French fry portions will be smaller. Fifty percent or more of the Happy Meal bundle offerings shown on menus around the world will meet the criteria of fewer than or equal to 600 calories; less than or equal to 10 per cent of calories from saturated fat; fewer than or equal to 650 milligrams of sodium; and less than or equal to 10 per cent of calories from added sugar.

The Toronto Star reports that currently, Happy Meals range anywhere from 300 to nearly 800 calories across North America. But this initiative marks the first time the chain has established finite nutrition goals for one of their meal combos. And they're planning on doing it in the company’s 120 markets around the world, including the 1,400 restaurants in Canada. The announcement is a conscious, natural complement to the Canadian federal government's upcoming nationwide ban on food and drink marketing aimed at children.

And while 2022 sounds fairly far off, that marker applies to markets outside of the U.S., including Canada. (That said, Canada is already offering bottled water and Happy Meals with milk, apple slices, and yogurt.) McD's here in the States are going to be the first to get in line with the goal, starting in June.

The Star points out that U.S. locations are already offering organic apple juice with fewer calories and reduce sugar and will soon offer chocolate milk with less added sugar. Given those slight, healthier tweaks that have been made to Happy Meals over the years, this is of course not the first time that McDonald's has aimed to show that they are bearing their youngest consumers' wellness in mind. But it definitely seems to be their most ambitious effort yet!



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