|Offering Happy Meals with apple slices is part of McDonald’s larger push to paint itself as a healthy place to eat. (Keith Srakocic/ Associated Press)|
This fall, apples drop into Happy Meals
McDonald’s to cut portion of fries in antiobesity effort
NEW YORK - An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But when you put it in a Happy Meal, it might help keep regulators at bay, too.
McDonald’s said yesterday that it would add apple slices and reduce the portion of french fries in its children’s meal boxes beginning this fall, effectively taking away consumers’ current choice between either having apples with caramel dip or fries as a Happy Meal side.
The move by McDonald’s, which has become a leader in moving to more nutritious fare like oatmeal and salads, comes as fast food chains face intense scrutiny from health officials and others who blame the industry for childhood obesity and other health-related problems. Some municipalities, including San Francisco, have even banned fast food restaurants from selling kids’ meals with toys.
Critics wasted no time complaining that McDonald’s changes don’t go far enough.
Kelle Louaillier, executive director of a group called Corporate Accountability International, said McDonald’s is just trying to get ahead of impending regulations that will restrict the marketing of junk food to children and require restaurants to post nutrition information on menus, among other changes.
“McDonald’s is taking steps in the right direction,’’ said Louaillier, whose group has pushed for McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald. “But we should be careful in heaping praise on corporations for simply reducing the scope of the problem they continue to create.’’
Michelle Obama said McDonald’s decision to add apples to its Happy Meals is a positive step toward solving childhood obesity.
She is heading a nationwide effort to reverse childhood obesity rates. She recently joined major retailers to announce plans to open or expand more than 1,500 stores over the next five years in areas without easy access to fresh produce.
Cindy Goody, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition, said the new directives are not related to new regulations. Rather, she said, they are a response to customers asking for healthier choices.
But apparently, customers aren’t making those choices in practice. Only about 11 percent of customers were ordering apples with their Happy Meals, though 88 percent were aware they had the option, the restaurant said.
McDonald’s says the change will reduce calories in its “most popular’’ Happy Meals by as much as 20 percent. The apple slices will not be served with caramel dipping sauce.
Currently, the lightest Happy Meal is the four-piece chicken nugget meal served with apples and apple juice. It has 380 calories and 12 grams of fat. The Happy Meal with the most fat and calories is a cheeseburger served with fries and 1 percent chocolate milk. It weighs in at 700 calories and 27 grams of fat.