For the past 30 years, kids have been ripping into their Happy Meal boxes with glee. Starting this September, they will find some changes.
McDonald’s announced on Tuesday that it will revamp its famed children’s meal to make it healthier. The fast food chain will shrink Happy Meal fries from 2.4 ounces to 1.1 ounces and add a serving of apple slices, carrots, raisins, pineapple slices or mandarin oranges to the meal, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Overall, the changes are expected to decrease the meals's calorie count by 20 percent, which would mean a cut of 49 billion calories in American kids’ annual diets, the restaurant estimates.
McDonald’s has been offering apple slices with a low-fat caramel sauce instead of fries since 2004, but only about one in ten Happy Meal customers made the healthier choice.
Because of growing concerns over child obesity, McDonald’s has come under pressure from Congress, local governments, and health and children’s advocacy groups to make its food options for children healthier.
One major criticism has been that the toy included in every Happy Meal associates fast food with fun in the minds of children. San Francisco and Santa Clara County actually banned the toys when meals did not meet certain nutritional criteria.
For many, the French fries are the only thing as important as the toy. McDonald’s says it suggested removing them from the Happy Meal entirely, but children and parents rebelled.
“People come to McDonald’s and, first of all, they want the choice and the control to be theirs, but their expectation of a Happy Meals does include a fry,” president of McDonald’s USA Jan Fields explained to the Times.
Alternative beverage options, such as 1% milk and low-fat chocolate milk, will also be offered, along with a nutritional message directed at the kids on every Happy Meal item.