The fast food chain hopes to encourage kids to eat healthy. 

By Elisabeth Sherman
February 15, 2018

 

The Happy Meal, with its little plastic toy, is a staple of the American childhood, but as attitudes about eating shift—specifically to accommodate more health-conscience consumers—McDonald’s has decided to revamp its kids’ meal offerings. The fast food change will removing the cheeseburger from the Happy Meal menu, as well as shrinking the French fry portions.

As the Washington Post reports, starting in June of this year, all Happy Meals will contain less than 600 calories and less than 650 milligrams of salt. In addition, the chain is will offer a smaller portion of French fries with the Chicken McNuggets meal, and is in the midst formulating a new chocolate milk recipe that contains less sugar.

In 2013, McDonald’s decided to stop offering soda on the Happy Meal menu, as well (in fact, soda in general seems to be falling out of favor as companies like PepsiCo attempt to launch healthier beverages and more states introduce soda taxes). Now, bottled water is the default drink option on the kids’ menu, though you can also choose from two types of milk or organic fruit juice.

McDonald’s has already switched up it’s Happy Meal sides, offering apples, yogurt, tangerines, and baby carrots as a healthier alternative to fries. Regardless, the regular hamburger that’s still available on the Happy Meal menu isn’t exactly a health food. Meanwhile, at McDonald’s Italy, there’s already a grilled chicken sandwich available on the kids’ menu.

The move is part of a larger health initiative on the fast food company's part: During 2016 Rio Olympics, when athletes were gorging themselves on unlimited McDonald’s in the Olympics Village, the chain began adding a pedometer to Happy Meals in lieu of a toy in order to encourage kids to exercise. The fast-food giant has since ended its partnership with the Olympics over image concerns associated with sponsoring the sporting event.

Even these small changes might impact children’s lives in a positive way, though: One 2015 study found that 34 percent of American children eat fast food on any given day, while childhood obesity effects 30 percent of American children, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. The smallest steps by huge corporations to encourage families to eat healthily might end up making all the difference.

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