Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Will kids love the new Happy Meal?

The McDonald's meal will feature both apple slices and fries, and customers would have to specifically ask for more fries in place of the apples.

By doubleace Jul 26, 2011 2:55PM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


Pummeled by healthy-food advocates -- but loved by little kids everywhere -- the iconic Happy Meal is undergoing another transformation.


Will it change the eating habits of America's ever-more-obese children? Probably not.


Fast-food giant McDonald’s has announced it will offer a Happy Meal that could contain 20% fewer calories. According to a Chicago Tribune story, the switchover will begin in September and be completed at all 14,000 restaurants by April. Post continues after video.

The lower-calorie Happy Meal -- still with a choice of hamburger, cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets -- will offer both fries and fresh apples, but with the option of dropping one and upsizing the other. 


The 2.4 ounces of potatoes in the current fries-only version will be replaced instead by 1.1 ounces of fries, plus the apples. According to McDonald's nutritional chart, the smaller fries portion would eliminate about 110 calories. It will replace the 3.1 ounces of Apple Dippers with caramel sauce (100 calories) that is in the apple-only version with 1.2 ounces of fresh apple slices (about 20 calories) in the new Happy Meal.


McDonald's said the apples could be replaced by pineapple, mandarin oranges, raisins or even carrots, depending on the time of year or region.


The reduction in fries in the Happy Meal is a good idea. A recently released 20-year Harvard University study showed that fries were the No. 1 cause of weight gain among participating adults. Wrote The New York Times:

The foods that contributed to the greatest weight gain were not surprising. French fries led the list: Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to an average weight gain of 3.4 pounds in each four-year period. Other important contributors were potato chips (1.7 pounds), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 pound), red meats and processed meats (0.95 and 0.93 pound, respectively), other forms of potatoes (0.57 pound), sweets and desserts (0.41 pound), refined grains (0.39 pound), other fried foods (0.32 pound), 100-percent fruit juice (0.31 pound) and butter (0.3 pound).

Good intentions aside, the Happy Meal is all about choice.

The Happy Meal remodeling began in 2004, and included making 1% milk and low-fat chocolate milk available as substitutes for soda, going to white meat instead of dark on the McNuggets and adding the apples as a choice. In addition, McDonald's stopped mentioning hamburgers and fries in its Happy Meal advertising in 2006, and promoted the apple option heavily. Still, the apple-only option was only 11% of Happy Meal sales.

According to a story on NPR's health blog, the effort to promote less consumption of fries is another step forward. "We know very clearly from consumer research that consumers react better to positives rather than negatives," said Eileen Kennedy of the Freidman School of Nutrition and Policy at Tufts University.

"We really need the industry to stand shoulder to shoulder on this one," she said.

McDonald's said it even did testing that eliminated fries altogether in the Happy Meal, subbing in the apples, but no one was buying.

"People come to McDonald's and, first of all, they want the choice and the control to be theirs, but their expectation of a Happy Meal does include a fry," Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, told the Chicago Tribune. "When we did it without fries, there was a huge disappointment factor."


That's no surprise: Kids want their fries, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a restaurant industry consulting company.

"I think you're going to get a good reaction from kids who like apples," he told the Tribune. "But ultimately I think we're going to see a good bit of apples wasted from kids who just refuse to eat them."


And that means we're still going to see kids order the "Tummy-yummy cheeseburger with a choice of soft drink and small World Famous Fries" version of the Happy Meal. That's a quick 640 calories.

More on MSN Money.

Jul 27, 2011 9:15AM

I am smart enough to make sure my children eat right.  I don't need nebby do-gooders with a bug up their butts hassling McDonalds into changing something that my children enjoy as a treat into something they think should be offered.


Just because there are people out there that don't know how to shut their pie holes or tell their children no is no reason why my children have to suffer through PC driven insanity.

Jul 27, 2011 1:07PM
I'm 29 years old.  I ate happy meals when I was a kid and I'm not fat.  They had the same marketing about getting toys in the meal and everything and apples weren't even an option.  French fries aren't making kids fat.  The lack of physical activity is.  They sit in school all day learning, then they have a mountain of homework to do at night.  That is time I used to spend playing outside with my friends or riding my bike. 
Jul 27, 2011 1:24PM
Blame McDonalds and not the parents who are too lazy to properly take care of their children? Is there some secret taboo that prevents parents from being blamed?

It's not hard to cook a tasty, health-conscience meal for a child. If you don't have time at night, cook the meal the day before. Teach your children self-control and the benefits to staying fit!!!

I love this country to death, and am proud to serve it, but the ignorance, laziness, and overall lack of integrity in the majority of the citizens and government officials makes me sick. Stop pointing your fingers at a scapegoat, and take responsibility...

Jul 27, 2011 12:51PM
it amazes me that parents can't be responsible for what their kids eat..   here's an idea, if McDonalds isn't good for your overweight child, or yourself, stop going there and make a home cooked meal or go some place that ISN'T FAST FOOD!  Maybe the government will bud out if people looked out for themselves...instead they feel they need to control everything.  Maybe NOT getting fast food is not convenient because parents are "soooo busy" but news flash, you chose to have make the right choices to have them grow up healthy!
Jul 27, 2011 12:56PM
why is it just McDonalds....what about Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and every other resturaunt out there that we can take our kids too!! It all comes down to the individual parents, saying NO. Maybe as a nation instead of nagging Mcdonalds...go after grocery stores and the like, to make healthy groceries more affordable for everyone. Because its not just Mcdonalds that is causing this obesity problem.
Jul 27, 2011 12:44PM
Yo, MSNBC quit with the auto start on the ads and the stupid video.  If I want to play them I will!!!!!
Jul 27, 2011 1:12PM
parents need to be the ones who choose what their kids eat. happy meals are once in a while treats not daily meals. why is the government not making the people who put hormones in the food not do it? With the hormones they use now it takes a chicken from hatching to big enough to butcher six weeks. without hormones it takes several months. what do the hormones do to the people who eat this stuff? 
Jul 27, 2011 12:25PM
Offering choices is one thing but I'm tired of seeing businesses pressured to be "healthy". If people want to be able to indulge in and "unhealthy" food selection, they should be free to do so. Enough with the nanny-food-police.
Jul 27, 2011 12:54PM
I think this change will do nothing for the fat and fatter. I have been struggling with my weight since I was old enough to do something about it. My parents did not do a good job providing me with healthy choices, my children do eat healthy and when old enough then they can make their own choices. When we go on a weekend trip or a vacation I do stop at McDonalds and get the Happy Meal with Fries & Juice it is a treat. These people on their mission to change fast food are NUTZ, if anything they should try  to change the mind of parents. I see parents feeding their children more crap at home then anything. Soon I will not be able to buy a scoop of delicious creamy ice cream because someone's kid is too fat and we should only sell non-fat, sugarless ice cream.
Jul 27, 2011 12:29PM
Am I alone here?  Who the F goes to McDonalds to eat apples?  I mean c'mon people, let's get real.  At the water cooler, you'll never hear, "hey did ya try the apples at McDonalds yet?"
Jul 27, 2011 1:34PM
I have always given my kids the choice on their meals to get apples or fries as well as their choice of drink. If they made a healthy choice my wife and I would give them praise and tell them they made a great healthy choice for the healthy item(s) they ordered. If they didn't make a healthy choice we would say nothing about it and just eat our meal. Over the last couple years they have got to the point of ordering apples and juice/milk over fries and soda. 9 times out of 10 they order healthy by their own choice and are completely happy - in fact they even get upset if they get fries instead of apples. We don't get upset or concerned if they want fries and soda every few visits. I feel it is important for them to have the choice, but be "coached" to make a healthy decision.
Jul 27, 2011 12:22PM
I agree with you J.J.. When my children were little we treated them with the occasional Happy Meal and they were never overweight. Some of us have enough sense to know it isn't acceptable as an everyday meal. All the tweaks they're doing to the Happy Meal is turning it into a Disapponting Meal.
Jul 27, 2011 2:10PM
How about PARENTS teach their children how to eat properly?  How about PARENTS making their kids go outside instead of sitting in front of the stupid TV and video games all day?  How about the government staying out of our food choices and child rearing?  I have six, and none of them are overweight.  You know why?  Because we teach them to eat correctly and they play outside!  Gasp!  Parents do your job and quit waiting for someone else to do it for you. 
Jul 27, 2011 1:30PM
I can't believe all this nonsense over a kids meal.  Now the powers that be want to take the toys out of the happy meals and do away with Ronald McDonald because "gasp" the kids will like it and ask their parents for a happy meal.  I don't need a nanny state that tells me what is healthy and what isn't and if my child should get a toy or if some clown should be banned because the nannies think I can't think for myself.  My children only got to go get fast food 2 times a month they got to choose where and they nine times out of ten chose McDonald's  because they wanted the toy.  My kids weren't planted in front of a TV, they were out playing with their friends and when they got older played the organized sport of their choosing.  I think that the decisions of what our kids eat and where they eat it lies solely with the parent.  All this overreaching into my business is getting really annoying.  I know that McDonald's is bowing to public pressure, but you know it's still the parents responsibility what their kids eat.  Everything in moderation and you'll be fine.  Jeez, where's the common sense.
Jul 27, 2011 12:39PM

My grandsons only get apples with happy meals - they usually get juice instead of soda. Good changes, but my children got happy meals on rare ocassion.  Replacing fries won't help unless parents start teaching their children how to eat healthy food and stop filling them with fast food in place of a good meal.


I work full time, take care of an elderly parent and have my grandchildren over several times a month.  Takes some planning, but I don't have a problem preparing home cooked meals. They aren't gourmet - but they sure beat a happy meal!


Jul 27, 2011 12:20PM

I'm glad they offer more choices, but my kids will probably complain because, like a lot of people, they prefer fries to fruit, so I'll continue to limit the Happy Meals to special treats a few times a year, just like I do now.


Maybe we need to work on getting real grocery food as cheap as McDonalds so more of us can afford to eat at home.

Jul 27, 2011 1:00PM

They are just using the issue to reduce the size of the fry portions.

You can make apple slices at home in less than a minute.

And no one wants the aplle slices! 10% is not a significant amount of customers.

Just McD Corp bowing to political correctness.

Maybe "Freedom Fries" is a good name for them. Freedom means you have a choice even if it might not be healthy. It's your life -not the Gov'ts.

So hands off my fries!

Jul 27, 2011 1:59PM
Why don't parents just start taking care of their children, and not expecting the government, teachers, and childcare employees to do it. If you don't like fast food, and the effect that it has on your children, here's an idea, DON'T GO TO MCDONALD'S. Turn off the tv in your home, make your kids go outside and play. Spend LESS money on food by going to the grocery store and buying healthier, fresher foods and prepare them yourself, in your own home.  That way, you can control EVERYTHING that goes into your kids' mouths'.  Not good enough for you? Then go to McDonalds.  Eat fast food knowing what it is, and don't expect to make your kids feel bad, because they want the greasy fries and not the apples.  And what are you eating with your meal?

Jul 27, 2011 2:31PM

McDonald's and fast food in general should be a treat....that means once in a while....not everyday or even every few days. I take my kids to McDonald's once in a while because it's fun and they like a treat sometimes. I get their Happy Meals with milk and apples - I don't give them a choice to get fries or soda. They love it.


Take responsibility people...make your kids go out and play, stop feeding them garbage food all the time, set an example for them by EATING HEALTHY YOURSELF and stop blaming everyone else for your problems!!

Jul 27, 2011 2:16PM
seriously? Just what what your kids eat and let McD's be a treat not a mainstay meal. What is wrong with our country and McDonalds, you might as well go out of business because LAZY, stupid parents are suing people and businesses because THEIR kids are fat. It is mom and dad who should be sued then for allowing their kids to get fat. It is all so stupid in our sue hungry country.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.