McDonald’s will include sliced apples and less fries in its Happy Meal as part of the fast-food chain’s “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices” campaign announced today.
The change is in response to what customers are asking for and not the result of any impending food industry regulations, said a McDonald’s director of nutrition. The company is one of many in the business that are responding more frequently to charges of being part of growing epidemics such as childhood obesity and diabetes.
McDonald’s intends on rolling out the new Happy Meal beginning in September and making it available in all of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants in early 2012.
The campaign includes the introduction of a mobile phone app that provides nutrition information. Also, a pledge to reduce sugars, saturated fats and calories through "varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations" by 2020.
"We've been in the nutrition game for over 30 years in providing nutrition information to our customers," stated Cindy Goody, McDonald's senior director of nutrition. "Now what we're doing is we're adding more food groups and ... creating nutritional awareness."
The new Happy Meal will automatically include a half serving of apple slices (a quarter cup) and a new smaller size French fries (1.1 ounces) along with the choice of a hamburger, cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets, and choice of beverage, including 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, McDonalds added in its announcement.
McDonald’s reported that although its U.S. customers already have a choice between apples or fries, only about 11 percent of customers were ordering apples.
Reaction to the nutrition commitments campaign on the McDonald’s Facebook page is mixed.
“McDonalds is not a DIET joint. It is a FAST FOOD HIGH CALORIE place. That is why we eat there. If you want diet food then go somewhere else. It is all about choices. They need to leave their food just the way it is. Parents need to do better at home. Then the kid can have a fattening happy meal once a week. I love the messy BIG MAC.” - Julie
“Kudos to you, McD, for the healthy changes to the Happy Meal. That's a good place to start. Thank you.” - Michelle
“I hope changes will be offered in addition to the regular menu and not in place of it. I'm an adult and I like my cheeseburger Happy Meal. I like the small size and I like getting my toy for my collection, too. Parents should learn how to say no. I never even had McD's until I was a teen because my mom cooked. She didn't need to rely on fast food to keep me fed.” - Melissa
McDonald’s reports that it serves 26 million customers every day. Nearly 90 percent of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated.