Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Happy Meals are getting healthier. McDonald’s today announced a plan called “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices.” One major change is that McDonald's will automatically include BOTH low-fat apple slices and a smaller serving of french fries in its Happy Meals. And on request, you can get two apple slice packs instead of the fries. Beverage choices include fat-free chocolate milk and 1 percent low-fat milk. 

Actually, McDonald's has offered apples as a choice in Happy Meals since 2004; but apples are chosen only 11 percent of the time. By making them a routine part of the meal, perhaps people will develop a habit of eating them.  (I have to wonder how many people will just  toss them? You can lead people to the healthy food, but you can't force them to eat it.)

Also, the company pledged to reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through "varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations."  I hope this doesn't mean that they will cut down on fat and calories simply by cutting the portion size. 

The McDonald's press release stated that the company has already reduced sodium by 10 percent in the majority of its national chicken menu offerings – most recently Chicken McNuggets. Sodium reductions will continue across the menu in accordance with the Company’s 2015 commitments.  

 In 2012, McDonald’s will also roll out nutrition messages in 100 percent of its national kids’ communications, including merchandising, advertising, digital and the Happy Meal packaging. McDonald’s will also provide funding for grass roots community nutrition awareness programs.

McDonald’s will expand new in-restaurant, website and mobile communications, and marketing vehicles making access to this information even easier. To begin, McDonald’s is now making available its first mobile app so customers can access nutrition information on-the-go.

I can't fault McDonald's for the country's weight problems.  For quite a few years, the chain has offered salads, apples, yogurt parfaits and so on. The choices are there; but it's up to people to make them.  I was around when the McLean Deluxe was introduced, and it was discontinued due to poor sales.  

One complaint I've heard is that the "healthy" food usually costs a lot more than the burgers, fries and chicken McNuggets.  That's true if you're comparing a salad to the dollar menu. But when you start getting into the big specialty  burgers, such as the Big Macs, Angus Burgers, or the Double Quarter Pounder, you could easily spend more on a combo meal than if you'd bought a salad. 

I know, maybe you don't really WANT a salad. But I'm just sayin'.

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