Currently, kids (or their parents) choose apple slices or french fries when ordering a McDonald's Happy Meal. But beginning in September, the decision will be made for them. The fast food giant is slashing the size of french fries in Happy Meals in half and adding a side of apple slices, hold the caramel dipping sauce. Fear not, though: The Happy Meal toy will remain.
The changes will cut calories in a standard McDonald's Happy Meal by approximately 20%, but is it enough? Will kids be happy with half the fries and a few apple slices? And more importantly, are moms happy?
I'm one of those moms -- you know, the one who refuses to feed her kids McDonald's. Tell me that they'll go crazy and eat it until they're sick as soon as they can, but I don't care. Maybe my "critics" are right. My kids can make choices when they're older, but I feel strongly enough about fast food (not being real food) that it's not happening. In fact, I had a proud parenting moment when Ronald McDonald marched down the street in our local parade and stopped to pose for a picture in front of us. My kids called him "a big clown." Pretty much.
To me, the new McDonald's Happy Meal is nothing more than an attempt to avoid potential future regulation. Remember when the board of supervisors in San Francisco voted for a Happy Meal ban last November? The city proposed that meals containing over 600 calories, with over 35% of the content coming from fat and devoid of fruits and vegetables, should not be allowed to include a toy.
Now all of the Happy Meals options will in fact log in at less than 600 calories, possibly preventing McDonald's from being affected by some future regulation.
I found out that I'm not alone. Other moms aren't fans of McDonald's, regardless of the contents of the famous Happy Meal. Natalie Koprowski, a mom of four, says, "My kids are nearly five and have never eaten at McD's." Mom of five Kelley O'Neill simply says, "Makes no difference to me...still won't eat there."
You know that saying about every little bit adding up? Many parents feel that's the case with the new McDonald's Happy Meals.
"I have never taken my son there but I am sure I will a few times in his life. I'm not sure it makes a huge difference, but I do appreciate the effort being made on trying to offer 'healthier' options," says mom of one Valerie Bast. "At least it's a start. Will it tempt me to get him a Happy Meal now as opposed to before? Not a chance. But it is something. Maybe it can become a catalyst for greater things (think: start of a healthier trend amongst fast food chains)."
San Diego mom Laura Crawford is glad to see the new Happy meals. "I think it is a responsible decision for McDonald's to cut the portion sizes in the Happy Meal, and I hope to one day see they do it across their entire menu," she says.
Deborah Cruz applauds the move. "I don't think French fries should come standard in Happy Meals," she says, even though she acknowledges that her two daughters have only had apple slices.
The same goes for San Diego mom Rachael Wunderlich. I try to stay away from McD's whenever possible, but if my kids do get a 'treat' -- as in a Happy Meal -- they always choose apple slices over fries anyway."
The new Happy Meal also takes the heat off of parents. "I let my daughter eat McDs once a week. She loves the fries so I don't sub them for the apples," says mom Julie Carroll. "I love that they did this because she will eat both the fries and the apples. And I will feel slightly less guilty."
Of course, as may parents point out, there are much bigger problems at play if McDonald's decision to replace half the french fries with apple slices it that life altering for some people.
Mom of two Jill Cunnup sums it up: "If you're eating at McDonald's enough that cutting the french fries in half makes you think it's a great thing, then you have bigger issues than the size of the fry. The apples don't impress me either...I will but stock when they offer fresh fruit. In effort of full disclosure my kids have/do/will eat at MCDs (please hold all gasps of horror)."
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