OAK BROOK, ILL. — McDonald’s USA is continuing its effort to improve the nutrition choices in its children’s meals with the addition of a new whole fruit side: Cuties California Clementines.

Beginning this month, child-sized Sun Pacific Cuties will join McDonald’s lineup of Happy Meal and Mighty Kids Meal side choices that currently includes apple slices and Go-Gurt low-fat strawberry yogurt. Cuties, grown in California, will be available during their peak season through March 2015, McDonald’s said.

In addition to being available in Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals, Cuties may be purchased a la carte.

“We know our customers and parents are looking for ways to enjoy more great-tasting and fun sides in our Happy Meals, and Cuties are the perfect fit,” said Greg Watson, senior vice-president of menu innovation, McDonald’s. “As part of our commitment to help families make more nutritious choices, we’ll continue to explore more fruit and low-fat dairy sides for our youngest customers.”

Before introducing them to restaurants nationwide, McDonald’s said it tested Cuties in approximately 70 restaurants around Austin, Texas. As part of the restaurant chain’s larger menu strategy to continue offering fresh fruit options, McDonald’s is testing smaller-sized “junior” bananas, which may be added as a future fresh offering as soon as next year pending test results.

The introduction of Cuties supports McDonald’s partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, to increase access to fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and to help families make informed choices.

“Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is critical to ensuring young people have the chance to live long, healthy lives,” said Victoria Brown, vice-president of strategic alliances, for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 60% of children do not eat enough fruit to meet daily recommendations. We are excited to see McDonald’s find innovative ways to increase customers’ access to fruit and vegetables — as they continue to make progress in our work together to help families and children make healthier choices.”

McDonald’s started automatically including apple slices in every children’s meal in March 2012. Since then, more than 1.2 billion bags of apple slices have been served. In July 2014 McDonald’s introduced Go-Gurt low-fat strawberry yogurt nationwide as a side. Since its introduction, McDonald’s has served more than 50 million Go-Gurt low-fat yogurt tubes in children’s' meals.