Fast food chain McDonald’s initiated some major changes to one of their staple foods this Thursday when the company announced a handful of new nutritional standards geared towards making their kids meals healthier. According to The Washington Post, all Happy Meals will contain less than 600 calories by June and sodium is on the chopping block as well with most Happy Meals containing less than 650 milligrams of NaCl.
While these changes are meaningful, especially as they pertain to children’s health, they likely won’t change the literal menu options very radically. The biggest change in the wake of McDonald’s new nutrition standards for children will be the removal of the cheeseburger from the kid’s menu. Along with the exclusion of the cheeseburger will come changes meant to disincentive soda drinking. Bottled water will instead become the default drink with all happy meals. Should a child decide that they don’t want water, the chain is also taking steps to lower the sugar content of their chocolate milk.
McDonald’s aims to make it such that all the meals it serves receive less than 10 percent of its calories from saturated fat. The same benchmark will be set for sugar content. McDonald’s has close to 40,000 locations in the world, and in 2016, not even 15,000 of them were in the U.S. McDonald’s hopes to get all their locations outside the U.S. up to the new standard by the end of 2022. According to the same Washinton Post report, Julia Braun, McDonald’s director of nutrition, said the chain has “really focused [their] efforts on families and children.” The result has been a gradual shift towards a healthier menu since 2011 when McDonald’s vowed to reduce sugar and sodium content in their meals.
The move has the power to net positive changes within other fast food chains as well. After McDonald’s removed soda as a default option for Happy Meals, Burger King, Wendy’s, and others did the same. While only so much can be done to make fast food healthy, the trend towards healthier fast food options is a positive one that parents support. Especially when only one-third of them feel they’re doing enough to encourage healthy eating and 80 percent are concerned with the state of children’s health as a whole.