McDonald’s announces new health standards for kids meals
The iconic Happy Meal at McDonald’s is set to be changed. The fast-food company has announced it will be following new nutrition standards for all of the kids’ meals, with new healthier options being implemented. By June 2018, all Happy Meals will contain fewer than 600 calories and have less than 650 milligrams of sodium. They will also be shrinking the size of the portion of fries that come with the meals, and making their chocolate milk less sugary. Cheeseburgers will no longer be an option for the Happy Meal, and water will become the default beverage given.
McDonald’s currently operates in 120 countries, and hopes to have these Happy Meal changes in place by the end of 2022. McDonald’s has long been under fire for the unhealthy aspects of their meals, which are exceptionally high in fats, carbohydrates, and sugars. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33 percent of children in the U.S. eat fast food every day, with millions getting their meals from McDonald’s. According to health officials, these changes in their menu have the potential to improve the diets of countless children.
Howell Wechsler, the CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, said, “We think McDonald’s is raising the bar. It’s a challenge to other companies in the field to get out there and do what’s right for kids.” McDonald’s has worked with Alliance since 2011, with the goal of improving the food environment in schools. In 2011, McDonald’s announced that they would be reducing the amount of sugar and sodium in their Happy Meals, and also added a sliced apples option in place of fries. They also removed soda as the default option for kids drinks, and replacing it with low sugar juice and milk. A report commissioned by a consulting firm shows that McDonald’s sales of milk, juice, and water had increased by nine percent over soda.
In addition to their new Happy Meals, McDonald’s is aiming to decrease the total amount of calories from saturated fat and added sugar by 10 percent. Julia Braun, the Director of Nutrition at McDonald’s, said, “We’ve really focused our efforts on families and children.”
Others see the change not making as big of an impact as McDonald’s thinks it will. Experts say that despite the changes, parents shouldn’t be making fast-food a regular part of children’s diets. A 600-calories meal for kids is quite excessive, and children shouldn’t be getting the majority of the calories from meals high in fats and carbohydrates.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, said, “McDonald’s is faced with consumer demand for healthier kids foods, but it’s hard to convert junk foods to health food in any meaningful way. The approach here is tweaking.” While it is right to continue preaching not to become too reliant on fast-food, these improvements being implemented by McDonald’s is a step in the right direction. There is certainly room for improvement for fast-food companies who have kid focused meals, but in the end, it is important progress that could lead to even healthier options and healthier children.