Last Tuesday McDonalds announced that they will be tweaking Happy Meals to make them more "healthy." Here's what they had to say:
The new Happy Meal will automatically include both produce (apple slices, a quarter cup or half serving) and a new smaller size French fries (1.1 ounces) along with the choice of a Hamburger, Cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets, and choice of beverage, including new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low fat white milk. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apple slices will be available, upon request.
Get that? The only real change they are making is that they will now be including apple slices (no doubt drenched in some chemical to keep them from turning brown). Notice that soda is still looks to be the default option, but you now have the choice of getting low-fat milk.
Yippee!!! Problem solved!! We can now all sleep easier because kids eating Happy Meals will now get some disgusting apple slices which they may or may not eat. That will more then make up for the excess trans fats, sodium and added sugars they will be consuming along with those apple slices.
Marion Nestle, as always, has some excellent commentary on the change on her blog. Marion points out that McDonald's move has less to do with actually being concerned with childhood obesity then business. Sales of Happy Meals are down because kids don't want the junk toys anymore.
It seems that marketing food as "healthy" is the newest way to increase sales these days, so what does McDonald's do? It makes some negligible improvement to an overall unhealthy pile of crap and calls it "healthy" (which is why you should never believe marketing).
If that ain't corporate whitewashing, I don't know what is. Do you really think that McDonald's would be adding apple slices to a Happy Meal if they didn't think there was money to be made?
Here's the deal, if you really want your kids to eat healthy, then don't ever take them to McDonald's. "Healthier" Happy Meals are certainly not the solution to the child-hood obesity epidemic in this country, particularly when they are not so much "healthier" but really just "slightly less unhealthy."
If McDonald's really wants to do right by kids and work to help end the child-hood obesity epidemic in this country there is actually one positive step they could take--they could stop their predatory marketing practices aimed at kids.
Instead of a "healthier" Happy Meal, let's get rid of the junky toys, the playgrounds and Ronald McDonald.