A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Is McDonald’s becoming healthy now?

On February 15, McDonald’s announced some major changes to its iconic Happy Meal. The fast food chain has decided to scale back on cheeseburgers and chocolate milk being included in the Happy Meal.

While not completely banning it, cheeseburgers will only be added to Happy Meals when requested. Chocolate milk though, will be taken from the meal entirely until the company can produce a less sugary formula.

It’s not just getting rid of chocolate milk and cheeseburgers that McDonald’s wants to peel back on; it’s the entire Happy Meal in general.

By June of 2022, the food chain wants all Happy Meal options to be less than 600 calories, have less than 650 milligrams of sodium and have less than 10 percent of its meals’ calories to come from saturated fat and added sugar. The company also plans to include bottle water and a grilled chicken sandwich to be new options for the meal.

According to the Associated Press, the company’s explanation for the changes is “a gentle nudge in encouraging more positive choices’’.

The chain believes that no longer promoting these options would cut their sales and have kids enjoy the healthier options.

Yet this push to the healthier side of fast food isn’t new for McDonald’s.

Just recently, the company replaced the apple juice that came with Happy Meals with a less sugary option. Before that, just like McDonald’s is doing with cheeseburgers, it stopped promoting sodas being added with Happy Meals. That cut of promotion resulted in sales falling to 14 percent.

There was also the reduce the size of fries and including fruits with the Happy meal that first paved the way for the evolution of the Happy Meal.

English teacher Ms. Camper is parent of two children, and she doesn’t see these changes made by McDonald’s as nothing but any attempt to keep hold of their customer.

“…McDonald’s has their market [and] parents who don’t want to take their children to McDonald’s may not even know about the changes in the menu,” said Ms. Camper. “They may also still feel that the attempt to have a healthier menu is in vain since it’s still McDonald’s.’’

With the rise in health consciousness and the tackle on the growing obesity problem in the U.S., McDonald’s may be making attempts to stay relevant in a changing food world.

  “I feel like the healthy options are an attempt to keep the customers that they do have from leaving in search of healthier options,” said Ms. Camper.

While some may believe that this reconstructing is nothing more than a marketing tactic or a serious attempt by the company to address the growing problem of child obesity in this country, the reality is that Happy Meal may never be the same as it was.

Nevertheless, the fast food chain is making some big changes that could not only shift their unhealthy reputation, but also change what other restaurants include in their children’s menus.