Many parents find themselves in the McDonald’s drive-through from time to time, or making a stop at a McDonald’s Playland to enjoy the free wifi while their kids frolic on a plastic playground. These parents are grateful for the healthy options attempted to be inserted in the McDonald’s Happy Meal (even if the kids aren’t), like squeezable yogurt, apple slices, and juice or milk instead of soda.
Those parents may now host even a little less guilt about those occasional Happy meals, as McDonald’s announced plans today to cut back on unhealthier aspects of the convenience meal even further. As summarized by USA Today:
By the end of 2022, at least 50 percent of Happy Meals listed on menus worldwide will have caps of 600 calories, 10 percent of calories coming from saturated fat, 650 mg sodium and 10 percent of calories coming from added sugar. By June, 100 percent of Happy Meals in the U.S. will hit the calorie, saturated fat and added sugar targets and 78 percent will meet the sodium criterion.
To reach those ratios, cheeseburgers will no longer be offered as a set option for Happy Meals, in favor of McNuggets; consumers can still buy cheeseburgers, obviously, but will have to ask for them separately. The chain also plans to reduce the sugar in its chocolate milk, and shrink the already smaller size of fries that comes with the nuggets. It also “will explore adding new foods to Happy Meals, like the Junior Chicken, a grilled chicken sandwich McDonald’s Italy introduced last month.”
While this is all a step in the right direction, the fact remains that nobody is really visiting McDonald’s for the healthy menu options. While the convenience factor is key (especially when kids are small), setting up that drive-through as a regular habit should likely still try to be avoided. USA Today quoted Jennifer Harris of the University Of Connecticut’s Rudd Center For Food Policy And Obesity: “It increases the perception that these are healthy places, so it’s okay to bring your kids there, but once inside, the whole environment is pushing unhealthy options. If you’re a parent, do you risk having a meltdown or do you get your child what’s most appealing to them?”