A Healthier Happy Meal

March 16, 2018

McDonald’s is making Happy Meals healthier. By June, all Happy Meal menus in the U.S. will be 600 calories or less. That’s an average cut of 150 calories. Meals will have less sugar, fat, and salt.

How will they get healthier? Cheeseburgers will be removed. Water will be added. French fry portions will shrink. The chocolate milk recipe will change.

Fast food is linked to health problems and weight gain. But one-third of kids in the U.S. eat it every day. That’s according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McDonald’s will still offer less-healthy items in Happy Meals. But the company says adding options helps customers make better choices. In 2014, McDonald’s quit serving soda with Happy Meals. Customers could order soda only by special request. Now, more than half of customers choose healthier drinks.

Jennifer Harris is a professor at the University of Connecticut. She studies fast food. Harris thinks the changes are good. But she still has concerns. She wrote about them in an editorial in the Associated Press. “Consider the environment inside a fast-food restaurant,” she wrote. “The smell of French fries, the prominent soda fountain with the soda-brand logos, the images of ice cream and large burgers on posters and menu boards.” In that setting, Harris says, it might still be hard for kids to make healthy choices.