After coming under pressure from consumer groups, McDonald's will soon tweak its popular kids' Happy Meals, reducing the French fry portion by more than half and adding apples to the meal.
McDonald's said it would start making the changes in September and the new Happy Meals would be available in all of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
The world's largest hamburger chain also plans a 15 percent reduction in sodium across its U.S. menu by 2015. Beyond that, it vowed to cut sodium, added sugars, saturated fats and calories in domestic meals by 2020.
The company says portion control and introducing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains are now on its radar screen.
The new child's French fry portion will be 1.1 ounces, down from 2.4 ounces previously, and equal to about 100 calories.
McDonald's currently offers apple slices with caramel dipping sauce as a Happy Meal side. The new apple portion size is 1.2 ounces, compared with 3.1 ounces previously, and has no added sugar or accompanying dipping sauces.
The new Happy Meals will have about 20 percent fewer calories than today's Happy Meal. As a result, the new Happy Meals will be under 600 calories.
Prices will not change as a result of the new composition and toys will continue to be included in every Happy Meal.
The move from McDonald's came after San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County, California, passed laws that would curb free toy giveaways with kids' meals that did not meet nutritional requirements.
The new Happy Meals still would not meet San Francisco's nutritional rules, which also require a vegetable serving.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that advocates healthier restaurant food for children, last year sued McDonald's to stop it from using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants. CSPI's nutrition policy director Margo Wootan, called the latest McDonald's changes a step in the right direction.
Burger King Corp, IHOP and more than a dozen other restaurant chains earlier this month backed an industry effort to serve and promote healthier meals for children. ]
As part of that, Burger King said it was removing French fries and soda as the default for its kids' meals. Diners now have to choose between those options or sliced apples, fat-free milk or juice before an order can be completed.
Let's hope these new Happy Meals make their way north of the border where 26% of Canadian kids are overweight or obese.
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