McDonald’s in the US has made the bold move to promote itself as a healthier restaurant for kids by tweaking its happy meal menu to include… an apple. So what are the chances this will get kids to eat more fruit and less cheeseburger? Probably as much as getting kids to come home from school with an uneaten pack of Oreos in their lunch box rather than a discarded mandarin. In other words, McDonald’s has just signed itself up to start throwing out a lot of fruit.
In Australia, apple slices have been an optional extra for the last 4 years, but it has been left up to parents (or extremely conscientious kids) to ask for them. Similarly in the US, apple slices have also been made available as an optional side, but there (in true McDonald’s form) it comes complete with caramel dipping sauce.
The problem with completely revamping the Happy Meal is that if McDonald’s just starts serving an apple, tomato and cheese sandwich and juice box, they suddenly become no different to any café or home kitchen. Where’s the fun in eating a boring old banana when you can smell a fresh batch of chicken nuggets being pulled out of a vat of oil? Not even a Grimace toy would undo the hurt and sense of betrayal caused by a missing cola.
In all fairness though, McDonald’s do seem to be seriously making an effort at promoting healthy eating this time. As well as supplying a Happy Meal apple, McDonald’s in the US are reducing their fry portions by almost half. This in turn means that kids maybe will be hungry enough to eat the apple. Or they might decide to go and buy more fries, which in turn adds a bit more money into the company’s cash register.
Perhaps I’m being unfair and cynical, but McDonald’s is known for being a fast food restaurant that serves tasty but unhealthy food. It is great that the company is taking steps to address health problems caused by people eating said tasty but unhealthy food. The real answer to stopping the obesity problem though is for people to eat tasty healthy food, and that kind of thing is found in a fruit salad, not a smaller portion of fries.