McDonald's has decided to make its popular Happy Meals healthier by adding fruit or vegetables to the meal and decreasing the portion of French Fries, the company announced on Tuesday.
The change will take effect from September in some places, and by April 2012 all McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. (14,000 in all) will implement it.
"What we're doing is offering fruit to every child that comes into a McDonald's, so it is an automatic," Jan Fields, president of McDonald's said.
The amount of fries will be reduced in each Happy Meal from 2.4 to 1.1 ounces and a quarter-cup portion of apple slices will be added.
Depending on the time of the year the fruits and veggies served will vary; the selection will include apples, pineapple, carrots, mandarin oranges and raisins.
Reducing the French fries and adding fruits are expected to reduce over 100 calories from a Happy Meal.
Now calorie count for the new Happy Meals will be well below 600 calories. The price of the Happy Meal will not change. Beginning from year 2012, the company promised to include a nutritional message in any advertising, marketing or packaging materials toward children. McDonald's said they will decrease sodium by 15 percent as well.
Cindy Goody, McDonald's senior director of nutrition, mentioned the changes are "absolutely not" related to new regulations but it is that they are responding to customers request for healthier choices.
The world's largest restaurant chain by sales, McDonald's has been continuously under pressure to improve the quality of its food and its marketing to children. Many health experts have aggressively challenged the chain's policy of selling kid meals that include a toy and linked McDonald's to the nation's obesity epidemic.
Michelle Obama praised McDonald's decision to make Happy Meals healthier and said it is a positive move toward resolving childhood obesity.
In 2010, McDonald's had market share of 9 percent in U.S in terms of restaurant sales, according to Technomic.