OAK BROOK, ILL. — Cheeseburgers and chocolate milk will no longer be offerings in Happy Meals at McDonald’s restaurants. The cuts are part of a move by McDonald’s Corp. to offer healthier options for children. By 2022, McDonald’s plans to offer more balanced meals, simplify ingredients, be more transparent with Happy Meal nutrition information and employ responsible marketing to children across 120 markets.
“We recognize the opportunity that we have to support families as one of the most visited restaurants in the world and remain committed to elevating our food,” said Steve Easterbrook, president and chief executive officer of McDonald’s. “Given our scale and reach, we hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald’s.”
By the end of 2022, at least 50% of Happy Meals listed on menus in each market will meet McDonald’s new Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of 600 or fewer calories, including 10% of calories from saturated fat, 10% from added sugar and 650 mg of sodium. Currently, 28% of Happy Meal combinations in 20 markets meet the new nutrition criteria, McDonald’s said.
To reach its nutrition goal, McDonald’s will add, reformulate or remove menu offerings from the Happy Meal section of the menu board. For example, McDonald’s Italy launched a new Junior Chicken sandwich, featuring grilled chicken.
McDonald’s restaurants in the United States will see these Happy Meal changes this year. In June 2018, 100% of Happy Meal combinations will contain 600 calories or fewer and will be 100% compliant with the added sugar and saturated fat criteria and 78% compliant with the new sodium criteria.
As part of the nutrition overhaul, Happy Meal menus will list only three entree choices: hamburger, 4-piece Chicken McNuggets and 6-piece Chicken McNuggets. The cheeseburger only will be available at customer request. Additionally, McDonald’s will replace the small french fries with a smaller size in the 6-piece Chicken McNugget meal, decreasing the calories and sodium in the fries serving by half.
Happy Meal beverages are getting a makeover as well. McDonald’s is reformulating its chocolate milk to reduce the amount of sugar — until the reformulation process is complete, chocolate milk will no longer be listed on the Happy Meal menu and only will be available at customer request. Later this year, bottled water will be added as a featured beverage choice in Happy Meals.
The planned menu updates will result in an average reduction of 20% in calories, 50% in added sugars, 13% in saturated fat and/or 17% in sodium.
Simplifying ingredients in Happy Meals also will be a focus. McDonald’s plans to remove artificial flavors and added colors from artificial sources in Happy Meals as well as reduce artificial preservatives where feasible, the company said.
As part of the new goals, McDonald’s will also ensure that nutrition information for Happy Meals is available and accessible through all McDonald’s owned web sites and mobile apps used for ordering. The company also will leverage this technology, along with packaging and promotions, to promote the healthier Happy Meal offerings.
McDonald’s’ Happy Meal renovation stems from its partnership with the Alliance for Healthier Generation. In 2013, McDonald’s began working with Healthier Generation to develop a plan for 20 major markets to increase customer access to fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water.
“From day one, Healthier Generation knew our work with McDonald’s could influence broad scale improvements to meal options for kids everywhere,” said Howell Wechsler, Ph.D., c.e.o. of Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “Today’s announcement represents meaningful progress to impact kids’ calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugar in Happy Meal bundles as offered on menu boards — and to promote more water. This sets a high bar, and we hope other industry leaders will follow suit.”
McDonald’s healthier Happy Meal commitments apply to all market globally with measurement and reporting of progress among 20 markets, the company said, representing nearly 85% of global sales.
“As a nutritionist and a mom, this is a pivotal moment as we unveil new, ambitious goals in collaboration with Healthier Generation that we hope will positively impact families around the world,” said Julia Braun, MPH, registered dietitian and head of global nutrition at McDonald’s. “Our efforts have led to big changes and real progress and as part of our continued food journey, we’re committed to making it easier for families to choose balanced options that will make measurable differences.”