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Fast food giant McDonald’s announced this week that it would be rolling out a new and improved Happy Meal this fall with the goal of promoting health and nutrition. Among the improvements to the current Happy Meal, the new Happy Meal will offer:
- Apple slices
- Smaller french fry portions
- Choice of cheeseburger, hamburger, or chicken nuggets (same as current Happy Meal)
- Choice of beverage: soda, fat free chocolate milk, or lowfat regular milk
Parents can also request two servings of apples instead of apples and fries upon request.
This announcement doesn’t come as a surprise to people who understand the economics of supply and demand. If consumers demand a product change, producers will change depending on what maximizes profits. As McDonald’s has come under increasing scrutiny for their marketing efforts toward children and their unhealthy menu items, it only makes sense that McDonald’s would make a move like this. But is it enough?
Happy Meals are still unhealthy for kids.
Even with the addition of lowfat plain milk and apples to the traditional Happy Meal, the meal still centers around a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nugget choice. Even with the 10% sodium reduction commitment that McDonald’s announced this week, these choices are still not good enough. They are filled with preservatives and other chemicals that prevent decomposition. Remember, most real food decomposes fairly quickly, or else it is packed with other things that you don’t want to ingest. See for yourself with this time lapse of this Happy Meal, taken last year:
We’re not hating on McDonald’s. This is part of a larger issue.
According to research conducted by McDonald’s:
McDonald’s has offered apples as a requested choice in Happy Meals since 2004. And, while recent research found that on average, 88 percent of McDonald’s customers are aware of the option, apples are chosen in only 11 percent of Happy Meal purchases.
Fruits and vegetables have an image problem that fast food companies can change if they want to. What kid would choose apples over fries if the apples are “special request only”? By placing healthy items at the center of the meal and not on the fringe, McDonald’s has the chance to influence millions of children. They’ve already got the marketing machine in place. In fact, McDonald’s has 13 websites offering advertising cloaked in entertainment, including this game site. In fact, forty percent of children ages 2 to 11 ask their parents to take them to McDonald’s at least once a week.
More changes are needed.
Considering this power that McDonald’s has, more changes by the fast food giant are needed to really make a dent in the childhood obesity crisis.
In the end, I’m not sure that these small changes that they have announced matter. What do you think?
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