McDonald's thinks inside the box with healthier Happy Meal

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by Aimee Keenan-Greene

McDonald's plans to downsize the french fries and add some apples to the Happy Meal.

Today the fast-food giant announced menu changes are in the works that focus on providing nutrition and education to customers to help them make informed menu decisions.

McDonald’s will begin rolling out the new Happy Meal this September, with the goal of having  produce or a low-fat dairy option in all 14,000 restaurants by early 2012.

They estimate this change will reduce calories in Happy Meals by 20 percent. 

The company will promote nutrition and active lifestyle in 100 percent of its national kids’ communications, including merchandising, advertising, digital and the Happy Meal packaging. McDonald’s will also provide funding for grass roots community nutrition awareness programs. 

By 2015, McDonald’s will reduce sodium an average of 15 percent overall across its national menu of food choices.
By 2020, McDonald’s will reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations.    

“I welcome and support today’s announcement by McDonald’s.  These types of incremental improvements in popular meals can have a broad impact on public health,” said Adam Drewnowski, PhD, Director, University of Washington Center for Obesity Research.  “Better to improve the diets of many than to seek perfection for the few.”

“Recent research has shown that younger children are consuming more fruits and vegetables, but we still have a long way to go to increase consumption to meet daily recommendations for these important food groups,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says childhood obesity affects approximately 12.5 million children and teens, 17 percent of that population. Changes in obesity prevalence from the 1960s show a rapid increase in the 1980s and 1990s, when obesity prevalence among children and teens tripled, from nearly 5 percent to approximately 15 percent.

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