A child could once feel excitement over hearing a parent utter those beautiful words: "honey, we're going to McDonald's for a Happy Meal." But those carefree days are over and that sense of childhood wonderment and abandon is about to be seriously curbed by a new McDonald's policy that cuts an order of fries in half, throws apple slices, raisins and pineapple chunks around as if they were ketchup, and just generally makes Happy Meals "healthier," and, less happy. And even though the apples are reportedly not well-received by customers, guess what? McDonald's is forcing the fruit in its Happy Meals anyway. Whether you want it or not.
And what's more, politics, perhaps even the White House itself, could be to blame.
The changes reportedly come on the heels of an outright Happy Meal toy ban in San Francisco and threats that other cities and counties will follow suit. The toys, allege legislators, are McDonald's way of luring children to indulge in the unhealthy treat. Yes, health advocates, who've long seen fast food as the bane of the nation's existence, have gotten their way yet again.
So after all the years of satisfied customers "lovin' it," it is political pressure, including First Lady Michelle Obama's war on childhood obesity, that reportedly forced McDonald's hands. CNN reports that Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, said McDonald’s had to change its menu because of political and community "pressures":
“I see this as a positive development,” he said. “The companies have recognized the pressures from the public, the community and parents to offer healthier choices for children. They’ve begun to respond. There have been criticisms of what they serve children for many years. In the past years, the pressure has intensified, the White House concern about childhood obesity is one source of that pressure.”
And not skipping a beat, the First Lady has already commended McDonald's for making "progress today by providing more fruit and reducing the calories in its Happy Meals. I've always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity."
According to reports, the fast food giant will offer apple slices, half-portions of french fries and the beverages of choice will now include 1% milk and fat-free chocolate milk.
Ironically, since introduced, the apple slices are apparently not even popular in the Happy Meals with only 11 percent of customers -- be them children or adults -- opting for the fruit. Regardless, McDonald's is making the fruit a default item in the Happy Meal.
So whether you want apples or not, you are going to get them.
“McDonald’s has been engaging suppliers, government and non-government organizations to determine ways it could play a role in helping society address today’s obesity concerns,” the company’s press release said.
Engaging government and non-government organizations? We are still talking about a burger-joint, whose mascot is a red-nosed clown, right?
Still, whether driven by PR or genuine concern for children's welfare, McDonald's is seemingly gun ho for the healthy changes, promising to launch even more menu revisions including additional fruit and vegetable options over...the next ten years? CNN writes:
The fast food giant also pledged to reduce sodium 15% across the board in its menu by 2015. It recently reduced sodium by 10% in most of its chicken offerings, including the Chicken McNuggets.
McDonald’s also vowed to reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations by 2020.
"Reformulations" and "innovations" are perhaps not words one likes to associate with appealing, tasty foods.
But in the end, kids can rest assured, sort of -- in an effort to prevent children from getting too confused when being presented with the almost unrecognizable Happy Meals, McDonald's claims the staple burger or McNugget of choice will essentially remain the same.
You can watch a local news report explaining the healthier Happy Meals below:
McDonald's: another casualty in the Nanny State's war on personal choice, or is the fast food giant bringing this on themselves? Will the new, and perhaps not improved, McDonald's menu affect your decision to patronize the long-time burger institution?
Remember when? Take a walk down Happy Meal memory lane: