McDonald’s Plans to Make Happy Meals Nutritionally Happier

McDonalds has ignored calls to give Ronald McDonald the boot. But today it said it will take steps to improve the nutritional quality of its Happy Meals. (Heres the WSJ story.)

Starting in September, McDonalds will roll out Happy Meals that package a smaller serving of French fries along with that burger or order of McNuggets.

Apple slices previously a rarely chosen option to replace fries will now be included automatically. (If you skip the fries, you get two servings of apples.) And the choice of beverages will include a new fat-free chocolate milk, as well as 1%-fat regular milk. The changes will cut the calories in the most popular Happy Meals by about 20%.

The company aims to have the slimmed-down Happy Meal in all its restaurants by the first quarter of next year. And toys will still be included.

A few weeks back, a group of other fast-food and other restaurant chains, including Burger King, Dennys, IHOP and Chilis, pledged to make their own offerings for kids more healthful by capping calories and including more servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.

Meantime, a new study published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association finds that fast food makes up an increasing percentage of kids diets. Fast food made up 12.7% of average daily energy intake in a 2003-2006 survey of kids aged 2 to 18, up from 10.4% in 1994-1998.

That increase was driven by fast food eaten at home, study co-author Jennifer Poti, a doctoral student in the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells the Health Blog. Fast food eaten at home rose to 6.1% of daily calories in 2003-2006 from 3.5% in the earlier survey.

There was a slight decrease, to 6.6% from 6.9%, in the percent of daily calories from fast food eaten at the restaurant itself or elsewhere outside the home.

Poti says this points to the importance of having calorie counts posted at drive-through menus as well as in-restaurant menu boards. That will be a requirement for restaurants with 20 or more locations under the health-care overhaul law, but the final details of the rule arent out yet from the FDA.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 at 5:19 pm and is filed under Health Care. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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