Childhood Obesity, Domestic and Economic Policy, Op-Eds

A Slimmer Happy Meal

Today, the Chicago Tribune reports that McDonald’s is announcing major changes to its Happy Meal. The once-optional apple slices will now be standard and the serving of fries will be smaller. Fat-free chocolate milk or one percent milk will be standard, and parents will have to specifically ask for soda if they choose that for their child. So, to sum up, McDonald’s has just made it easier for parents to save an estimated 20 percent of the calories in a typical Happy Meal and included, as a default, whole fruit for children.

One of the more interesting parts to this story is that McDonald’s has been offering the apple dippers option since 2004. Since 2006, the company advertised a version of the Happy Meal that was chicken nuggets and apple dippers. Fries and burgers haven’t been seen in a Happy Meal advertisement since. Still, according to the company, 88 percent of McDonald’s customers were aware of the apple slice option yet only 11 percent chose it for their children.

As a parent, I’m thankful that McDonald’s is making it a bit easier to feed children healthier fast food.  Sizing down the serving of fries and including fruit is commendable. But I am reminded that, as parents, the choice and the responsibility is still ours. We are responsible for what and how much our children eat. We are responsible for choosing the water or milk options rather than a sugar-loaded alertnative. We can’t blame McDonald’s for our kids’ eating habits when we are the ones behind the wheel at the drive-thru.

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