Since 2004, McDonald’s has offered apples as a healthier alternative to fries in its kid-oriented Happy Meals. But while surveys indicated that 88 percent of parents were aware of the option, the chain reported that only 11 percent chose fruit over fries. In July, McDonald’s changed the default kid’s offering to include both a wee serving of deep-fried spuds (1.1 ounces, or about 12 fries, down from 2.4 ounces) and a baggie of pre-sliced apples. Happy Meals also will include low-fat milk rather than soda.
The chain told USA Today the changes were “absolutely not” a response to political pressure to help reduce childhood obesity. But the redesigned meals do come within striking distance of the standards recently imposed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which were designed to make the old-style Happy Meals illegal within the city.
Whenever a health or safety measure is instituted for the children, you can bet an adult-sized version is lurking nearby. On the same day as the apple announcement, McDonald’s pledged to reduce sodium in its meals by 15 percent across the board in the next four years. The chain also has hired a consulting firm to report on progress toward promised reductions in sugars, fat, and calories by 2020.