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 reduction of 150 calories. Meals will have less sugar, fat, and salt, and no artificial colors and preservatives.
How will the menu become healthier? Cheeseburgers will be removed. Bottled water will be added. French fry portions will shrink. Some items, such as chocolate milk, will be reformulated.
Fast food is linked to health problems and weight gain. But one-third of kids in the U.S. eat it every day, 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 healthy options will help customers make better choices. In 2014, McDonald’s quit serving soda with Happy Meals except by special request. By the end of last year, more than half of customers chose healthier drinks.
Jennifer Harris, a professor at the University of Connecticut, studies fast food. She thinks the changes are a good idea. But in an editorial for the Associated Press, Harris still expressed concerns. “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 be hard for kids and parents to make healthy choices.