McDonald's pushes for healthier Happy Meals

Fast-food chain has evolved to keep pace with health-conscious consumers and changing expectations

McDonald’s is on track to healthier Happy Meals.

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The fast-food chain reported that since launching its initiative to provide more balanced meal options for younger guests in 2018, it has sold over 2.5 billion Happy Meal items containing fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, water, lean protein or whole grains.

As the fast-food market evolves to keep pace with health-conscious consumers and changing expectations, the Happy Meal is changing with it. McDonald’s has already taken steps to reduce calories, artificial ingredients, saturated fat and other unhealthy ingredients provided in the smiling cardboard boxes.

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However, the brand is still only halfway to reaching its goals set out in its Global Happy Meals plan in partnership with Alliance for a Healthier Generation. By 2022, Happy Meals will be less caloric, free of artificial flavors and lower in quantity of artificial preservatives.

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“As one of the most frequented restaurants globally, we’re committed to using our size and scale to offer and promote more balanced choices for kids and families,” McDonald’s Director of Global Nutrition Julia Braun told FOX Business. “We know how important delicious food is in bringing families together, and we want parents to feel good about serving our food to their kids.  We’ve worked hard to make meaningful changes to evolve the Happy Meal, and this progress marks an important step in providing access to more balanced options made with quality ingredients.”

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Across 20 major markets that account for 85% of global sales, McDonald’s has improved the average nutritional profile of Happy Meal Bundles from 2018 to 2019. On average there are 28 less calories, along with 37 mg sodium, 0.6 grams of saturated fat and 1.4 grams of added sugars shown on menu board offerings today.

McDonald’s has also taken strides to reduce artificial sources. To date, 93% of Happy Meal menu items do not contain any artificial flavors or preservatives.

On top of a nutritional reconstruct, transparency and market responsibility have been a large area of focus in order for customers to make informed and smarter choices. Since 2019, 60% of the 20 major markets now show Happy Meal nutrition information on McDonald’s owned websites and mobile apps used for ordering. The goal is to reach 100%.

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Marketing efforts have also been updated to reflect Happy Meal bundles that meet the global nutrition criteria. In its commitment to responsibly market to children, 100% of ads shown to children in 2019 featured water, milk or juice as the Happy Meal beverage and fruit, vegetables or dairy as a side, according to a McDonald’s spokesperson.

And sales for Happy Meals with recommended food groups have gone up as a result. 80 percent of its 20 major markets sold an increased share of those bundles over one year.

“McDonald’s has always believed in continuous improvement, and we know that we can always do more,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told FOX Business. “We have been evolving our menu and the choices we offer based on input from our customers as to how we can continue to meet their changing needs and expectations.”

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