Happy Meals Get a Little Less Happy With Half the Fries

Filed under: In The News

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Happy Meals may be a little more healthy but a little less happy now that McDonald's is cutting the number of fries kids get in half.

The New York Times reports restaurant officials announced July 26 the company is putting kids on strict french fry rations to cut the total number of calories in Happy Meals by 20 percent. At many locations, parents already may substitute apple slices and other healthier foods for fries.

The meals will still come with toys -- often promoting movies -- despite criticism that the toys make the meals too happy, causing children to form an emotional link between feeling happy and eating unhealthy food.

San Francisco officials banned the toys in kids' meals that fail to meet nutritional requirements. A city councilor in New York City is proposing a similar law.

The Times reports Happy Meals account for less than 10 percent of all McDonald's sales, but the Happy Meal has become a recurring target for crusading lawmakers and consumer advocates as child obesity has become an increasingly popular cause.

Other fast-food restaurants also have bowed to public pressure.

The Times reports Jack in the Box officials announced in June they would quit putting toys in children's meals.

Burger King, IHOP and more than a dozen other restaurant chains vowed this month to promote and serve healthier options for kids.

"McDonald's is not giving the whole loaf, but it is giving a half or two thirds of a loaf," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tells The Times.

The center represents a woman in California who is suing McDonald's for including toys in its Happy Meals.

"This is an important step in the right direction," Jacobson tells the newspaper.

McDonald's officials also pledged to reduce the salt content in all of its foods by 15 percent, with the exceptions of soda and desserts, by 2015. The slightly-less-Happy Meals will be introduced in September.

"It's a trade-off between everybody getting a small portion and 10 percent of kids getting a larger portion, which is better than nothing and maybe will accustom kids to eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they go out to eat," Jacobson tells The Times.

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