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In The News: McDonald's Happy Meals Get a Makeover

7/28/2011 10:47:53 AM

Tags: McDonald's, Kids' Meal, Happy Meal, Calories, Saturated Fat, Sodium, Health, Obesity, Childhood Obesity, In The News

J.PattonWhen I was a kid, a Happy Meal was my favorite meal on the planet. This could’ve been encouraged by my grandma, who loved to spoil me and took me to McDonald’s every chance she got. In my mind, there was nothing tastier than an order of chicken nuggets and French fries.

Since then, my adult taste buds and my knowledge of health and nutrition have steered me clear of fast food altogether. However, many kids across the country still indulge in Happy Meals every day, and their lives are about to alter.

McDonald’s, no doubt responding to pressure from health advocates and parents nationwide, has given their Happy Meal a facelift. On Tuesday, the company announced that it would cut the amount of French fries in each of the popular kids' meals in half and replace them with apple slices.

Photo by happymealy/Courtesy Flickr 

This will reduce the calorie count in each Happy Meal by about 20 percent, which is a step in the right direction, since today’s Happy Meal with chicken nuggets contains a whopping 520 calories. The changes will be introduced in September and be in full effect at every McDonald’s restaurant by April 2012.

In addition to this major menu change, for the rest of the decade the company will focus on reducing salts, saturated fats and sugars in each of its menu items.

This action comes only days after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating that 49 out of 50 states in the United States have at least a 20 percent obesity rate. Colorado fell short, just barely, with a 19.8 obesity percentage. Twelve states have an obesity rate of more than 30 percent. Mississippi topped the list, with 34 percent of adults considered obese.

About 17 percent of children in the United States are considered obese. That number has more than tripled since 1980.

Here are some tips from the CDC about how to keep your children from becoming part of these statistics:

• Allow kids no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day, whether at home, school or child care.
• Visit your child’s care center to see if they serve healthy foods and drinks.
• Work with school to limit foods and drinks with added sugar, fat and salt that can be purchased outside the school lunch program.
• Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit foods high in fats and sugar, and prepare healthier foods at family meals.
• Serve your family water instead of sugar drinks.
• Make sure your child gets physical activity each day. 

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