Is McDonalds ready for some big changes in its menu to become more nutrition-friendly to kids? Or are the so-called reforms they are introducing nothing but a mere token to the growing challenge for them to serve better food choices to children?
The fast-food giant announced on Thursday that while Happy Meal staples burgers and chicken nuggets will stay as their main offerings, McDonalds’ goal is to market more balanced kids’ meals around the globe.
The company is targetting that by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the kids’ meal options listed on menus will meet new global Happy Meal nutrition criteria. It will mean meals having 600 calories or less. It would also entail less fat and less sodium in its kiddie meals.
Such goals are part of McDonald’s commitments to improving meal options for their kid customers. The goals involve small tweaks in the existing menu. One example is that to reduce sugar, McDonald’s branches in the U.S. have switched to organic apple juice that is lower in sugar and calories, among other little changes in kiddie meals.
A statement from the company also says that McDonald’s will aim to use its size and scale to leverage innovative marketing to “help serve more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and water in Happy Meals.”
The fast-food restaurant’s promised changes in children’s meals have earned the approval of the American Heart Association. The organization said in a statement that it is “an important step in the right direction.” The group's CEO Nancy Brown also added that they are looking forward to seeing how the proposed changes will lead to kids eating fewer calories and less sugar, saturated fat and sodium.
But not everyone is impressed with McDonald’s promised changes in the kiddie meals. Alexa Kaczmarski of Corporate Accountability, a watchdog group that campaigns for McDonald’s to change the way it markets to children, remains doubtful of the company. She said: “This is more of the same. Old tricks from an old dog. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, Happy Meals are vehicles for hooking kids on junk food and building brand affinity for life.”
The company also cannot do away with burgers and chicken nuggets as the mainstays in their kiddie meals in the U.S. until the company is satisfied with the results of the exploratory changes it has first introduced in other countries.
Only last month, Mcdonald’s Italy introduced lean, grilled chicken as a new Happy Meal. McDonald’s Australia and France are exploring more vegetable options.
In some parts of Europe, McDonalds also introduced vegetarian and vegan burger options for its mainstream meals. But the fast-food giant seems not quite ready yet to try the same in the U.S. unless there’s a “demand for it” and it can gain “mass appeal.”
The Goldwater ran a story earlier that says a new study by researchers in Brazil and France found out that processed foods could be contributing to rising cancer levels, which becomes even more concerning in light of such food making up to 50 percent of the average person’s diet in some developed countries. The study further reveals that a ten percent increase in ultra-processed food intake was associated with a correponding 12 percent increased risk of overall cancer.
Ultra-processed foods often possess high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, similar to fast-food fare.