I would call this a victory… of sorts…
I am tremendously happy to share with you all the news from McDonalds stating that they have redesigned their Happy Meal! Yay!! You can read all about it here.
What McDonalds has done is create a smaller small fries, which is only 1.1 oz down from 2.4 oz. In place of the half order of fries that they are cutting from the meal, they are adding a small portion of apples without any caramel sauce (In Canada they are adding a low fat yogurt, which is also awesome). This is huge on several levels. First, we should be eating fruit and vegetables with every meal. In fact, the bulk of every meal should be fruits and vegetables (primarily vegetables). Now that McDonalds is adding fruit to each kids meal it is starting to send the right message of a meal. Not just hamburger and fries. The second reason this is huge is the dropping of the caramel sauce. I don’t know what kind of world we would be living in if we had to dip apples in caramel to get kids to eat them… If your kids are that picky about eating fruit, you have a problem, one that isn’t solved by adding caramel sauce to your apples. This is so disturbingly perverse, it makes me think that we would be letting our kids decide the whole food menu and eat cake and cookies for dinner because they like them…
Some of the problems with the new happy meal include the fact that this is still a pretty big meal. McDonalds is advertising it as under 600 calories, which is too many. Way too many calories. Even for an active adult, this is 50% too many calories. The meal should come in at around 400 calories to get my stamp of approval. To achieve that and keep it filling, they will need to halve their burger size and add a full serving of vegetables. We will see if this ever comes to pass.
I am not sure how McDonalds arrives at its 600 calorie number though, because when I plug a burger, small fries and a milk or kids soda into the nutrition calculator, I come up with 580 calories… That is the current serving. If they drop the fries to 100 calories from 220 (as they are saying they have done) and add back even 50 calories of apple (which is a fair amount), they end up at 510.
A cheeseburger adds an extra 50 calories. I love cheese on my burgers, but not for an additional 20% added to my burger.
In any case, the true victory here is the fact that McDonalds blinked. When presented with the San Francisco Happy Meal Ban, McDonalds stood tall and said it would never change its Happy Meal. Here we are, not even a year later and it has been redesigned. Thank you McDonalds for being big enough to step back from an ultimatum like that and make steps to help us get fitter. It really is a good first step and I look forward to other steps to follow. A smaller burger, maybe 150 to 200 calories would be great. As well, a fresh tasting vegetable side, such as steamed beans would really create some great choices for all of us.