A New Recipe for McDonald’s Happy Meals: More Fruit, Fewer Fries

(Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

McDonald’s Happy Meals are getting  a makeover.

The world’s largest hamburger chain, which has been under pressure from activists to sell healthier meals,  announced on Tuesday that its popular children’s order will include apples or other fruit while cutting back on the fries. The new regular fries portion will be 1.1 ounces, down from 2.4 ounces, and will be about 100 calories, Reuters reports. Overall, the new Happy Meals will be under 600 calories.

The apple portion will come as a half-cup of peeled fruit with no added sugar or dipping sauce. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the side fruit included in the meal could change to mandarin oranges, pineapple slices or some other healthful fare depending on the time of year and region. Although apples have been an option in the past, fruit now will come with every Happy Meal.

The fast-food giant also said that it is striving to reduce sodium, sugars, saturated fats and calories across its entire menu. By 2015, it will reduce the amount of sodium by 15 percent, according to the Associated Press. The company also plans to introduce a mobile phone app focused on nutrition.

“We are going to be casting our gaze more closely on portion management as well as how we can introduce more food groups such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Cindy Goody, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition, said on a webcast.

Activists and health care professionals have long criticized McDonald’s for marketing unhealthful fare to children and contributing to the nation’s obesity problem. Pressure also is coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which by year-end is expected to issue rules requiring restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on every item they sell.

With a calorie count under 600, the new Happy Meals will mark about a 20 percent reduction in calories, according to the company. Prices will not change and the new meals will be available at all of its locations by April.

LILLY FOWLER

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