Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employee Health: The New Happy Meal

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

healthy choices for kids, sliced applesAlthough it’s hardly what you would call a wholesome meal, the McDonald’s Happy Meal has taken a small step in a more nutritious direction with the addition of apple slices. Apples have previously been an option in the past in place of French fries, but kids will now automatically find a small portion of apple slices paired with a smaller serving of fries in place of the traditional serving of fries.

With the added option of skim milk, there is potential for about a 20 percent reduction in calorie content as compared to the traditional Happy Meal. For fry lovers, special requests for the traditional serving of fries in place of the apple slices will be honored (and vice versa; a double serving of apples is also available).

What Are the Motives Behind This Nutritional Improvement?

Potential arguments explaining why McDonald’s has implemented this change include pressure from the government to combat childhood obesity, a marketing strategy, or even a sincere interest of the company in promoting healthier options.

There are a couple of perspectives to take on the change; on a positive note, regardless of the underlying intentions, the new meal should have at least a small, positive impact on kids by marginally increasing their consumption of fruit in lieu of a sodium-rich, processed alternative. It may help reinforce the fact that fruit is an important part of every meal; however, this must go hand-in-hand with sound nutritional habits and lessons taught by parents at home. Happy Meals can be enjoyed in moderation as a treat for kids who enjoy them.  

New Happy Meal Doesn't Stack up Well According to MyPlate

Sizing up the new Happy Meal in a more negative light, it is clear that the combination of breaded chicken nuggets or a hamburger on a white bun, French fries, apples (only a half-serving’s worth), and soda has a lot of ground to make up in regard to the new MyPlate recommendations. These guidelines present an ideal meal as a plate half full of fruits and vegetables (preferably fresh and unprocessed), a lean protein source, a grain (preferably whole), and a lean dairy item.

Some may wonder how much a change like this would really impact kids’ health and help combat larger issues such as childhood obesity. The unfortunate fact remains that if a child is being raised in an environment where fast food is a staple, there’s a good chance they’re forming bad habits and attitudes about nutrition that could set them up for health problems down the road. There are many more far-reaching issues affecting the health of American kids than the act of replacing a few French fries with apples.

All in all, this slight nutritional makeover of the Happy Meal certainly won’t hurt, but can spur a great deal of discussion. What are your opinions of McDonalds' actions?

Topics: nutrition obesity