Should McDonalds Happy Meals be made into Healthy Meals?
Back on April 27, 2010, the Santa Clara County (California) Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance banning the use of toys to encourage children to eat unhealthy meals offered by restaurants. This was the first move by a government body to try to address the obesity epidemic that is plaguing America’s children. Then on Nov. 2, 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to require that kids’ meals meet certain nutritional standards before they can be sold with toys. This law sets the bar for healthy children’s meals as those “that have less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar.”
A year later and apparently feeling the pressure from these and other government regulations, the McDonald’s organization is beginning to make concessions. It recently announced its “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices.” This announcement included the decision to do the following:
- By March 2012: provide apples in every Happy Meal (with a smaller serving of French fries)
- By 2015: “reduce sodium an average of 15 percent overall across its national menu of food choices”
- By 2020: “reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations.”
“[Increase] customers’ and employees’ access to nutrition information.”
A review of the current McDonald’s kids’ meals menu reveals that of the current 24 meal combinations offered, five still exceed 600 calories; specifically some of the meals with cheeseburgers and a hamburger, fries and low-fat chocolate-milk meal. The nutritional information for the new menu that includes meals with apples and fewer fries is not out yet. But the company seems to be moving in the right direction. One source suggests that the new Happy Meals will have 6 fewer grams of fat and between 110 and 120 fewer calories.
Important note: It’s no secret what a healthy meal should include. The high sugar content, lack of whole grains and lack of meaningful vegetables in most kids’ meals are still at issue. As a food source for millions of children, McDonald’s cannot ignore its responsibility to offer healthier meals to children, regardless of what children will eat or parents will buy.