McDonald’s announced today a major overhaul of its Happy Meals in an attempt to increase the nutritional profile of its kids-meal offering.  

In a webcast featuring McDonald’s USA president Jan Fields and director of nutrition Cynthia Goody, the company announced that it will begin automatically including apples in every Happy Meal, and will reduce the size of the french fries included.

“We are a company that cares about our customers, and we’re determined to run our company in a way that honors our founder, Ray Kroc, who believed that anything worth doing is always worth doing right,” Fields said in the webcast.

Beginning in select markets in September and expanding nationwide by the end of Q1 of 2012, McDonald’s will include a portion of apples without dipping sauces or added sugars in every Happy Meal. It will also shrink the fries offering from 2.4 ounces to 1.1 ounces.

This well help decrease the calories in a Happy Meal by 20 percent, Goody said.

“When you decide to eat out and choose to bring your family, we want you to feel good about that decision and about the food choices you find at McDonald’s,” Fields said.

McDonald’s is also committing to more nutritional messaging directed toward kids. It announced that starting in 2012, 100 percent of its advertising targeting kids will include messaging about healthy eating and activity.

“While recent research shows younger children consuming more fruits and vegetables, we still have a long way to go to increase consumption to recommended levels,” Goody said in the webcast.

McDonald’s announcement comes two weeks after the National Restaurant Association (NRA) unveiled its “Kids LiveWell” initiative, which is currently supported by 19 restaurant brands and outlines guidelines for healthy kids meals.

Fields said that though McDonald’s is not a member of “Kids LiveWell,” it is supportive of the NRA and its guidelines and will work closely with the organization moving into the future.

McDonald’s also announced today that it will improve the nutritional profile of its entire menuboard in the next several years. Fields said that by 2015, the company will reduce sodium by 15 percent across the board, and that by 2020, there will be additional reductions in sodium, saturated fats, added sugars, and calories.

Fields said McDonald’s will accomplish these goals by controlling portion sizes, adhering to guidelines laid out by the USDA’s MyPlate, and developing new menu items. There will also be an advisory board to help guide the chain’s nutrition efforts for kids.

By Sam Oches

Menu Innovations, News, McDonald's