McDonald's scraps cheeseburgers from Happy Meal menu in new health drive

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McDonald’s is removing cheeseburgers from its Happy Meal menu in the United States to make its food for children more healthy.

Bottled water will replace chocolate milk on menus too to encourage children to select healthier drink options.

Portions of fries will also be halved in six-piece chicken McNugget Mighty Meals for older children.

The changes – which have already been implemented in the UK – form part of the global fast-food giant’s plans to cut calories, sodium, saturated fat and added sugar from its products.

It wants to have at least half of the Happy Meals listed on its drive-thru, restaurant and digital menus around the world to contain 600 calories or fewer by 2022.

Diners will still be able to ask for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kids’ meal, but the company said banishing them from menus will reduce how often they are ordered.

It said orders for fizzy drinks had fallen by 14% since they were removed from the Happy Meal menu four years ago.

Future plans also include more healthy side options in addition to fruit and vegetables as an alternative to fries. Restaurants in Spain offer pineapple spears and cooked corn is on the menu in China, Japan and Taiwan.

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Diners will still be able to ask for cheeseburgers at service counters

The firm, which in the past has been criticised for using toys to promote its Happy Meals, also wants to offer books as an all-year-round alternative in 100 of its markets around the world by the end of 2019 – up from 20.

The changes are due to take effect in the United States by June.

According to McDonald’s UK online nutrition calculator, a cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries and a strawberry milkshake contains 917 calories.

In comparison, a crispy chicken wrap, apple and grape fruit bag and an orange juice contains 397 calories, dropping further still to 289 calories if a bottle of water is the chosen beverage.

Happy Meals in restaurants in the UK already meet the nutrition targets set out in Thursday’s announcement, and do not advertise cheeseburgers and milkshakes, McDonald’s UK said.

A spokeswoman said: “We take our responsibility to families very seriously and in the UK we have, for a long time, been committed to evolving our Happy Meal menu to keep in step with what parents want.

“We have pioneered an extensive salt and sugar reduction programme, and subsequently the average Happy Meal consumed in the UK last year contained 19.3% less salt, 9.4% less saturated fat, and 13.5% less sugar, compared with the average Happy Meal sold in 2006.

“Since 2007, we have offered book promotions whereby we swap out toys for books for around five weeks a year.

“We also give children access to books through WHSmith, Eason and Kobo whereby parents can use the vouchers printed on their child’s Happy Meal box to purchase a book for £1 or download an eBook for free.”

She added there were no plans to swap out toys for books all-year-round, but the company was working on launching a new lean-protein item to the Happy Meal later this year.

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