McDonald's is making a major change to its Happy Meals to win over sceptical parents

Hollis Johnson
  • McDonald’s just announced a plan to cut calories in Happy Meals.
  • The cheeseburger will no longer be on Happy Meal menus, and six-piece chicken nuggets will no longer be served with small fries.
  • McDonald’s head of global nutrition says she’s “shocked” by what she believes to be people’s uninformed criticism of the chain’s menu.

McDonald’s just announced a global change to its Happy Meals.

On Thursday, the fast-food giant announced it would be making worldwide changes to cut calories, sodium, saturated fat, and sugar in Happy Meals. The chain is also prioritising cutting artificial ingredients and adjusting what meals are advertised to children.

Starting in June, the official US Happy Meal menu – as displayed on menu boards – will only feature combinations that are 600 calories or less.

“It’s really what we see as a gentle nudge in encouraging more positive choices,” McDonald’s head of global nutrition, Julia Braun, told Business Insider.

McDonald’s cut the calories primarily by focusing on cheeseburgers and fries.

McDonald's Value MenuHollis Johnson

While a cheeseburger Happy Meal will be available upon request, cheeseburgers will no long be featured on the menu or in advertising. And, while customers can order a small fries with a four-piece nugget Happy Meal, they will be restricted to a kids-sized fries for the six-piece meal.

McDonald’s also announced that by 2022, at least 50% of Happy Meals on menus will be 600 calories or less. The chain will also meet McDonald’s nutritional criteria: equal to or less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, 650 milligrams of sodium, and 10% of calories from sugar.

The fast-food giant has struggled to convince critics of its food quality and nutrition.

“As a mum I hear comments all the time that are like, ‘you don’t eat McDonald’s,’ or, ‘you don’t give McDonald’s to your kids, right?'” Braun said. “And I’m shocked.”

Braun says that critics ignore things such as McDonald’s cutting preservatives and artificial ingredients from food.

McDonald’s is undergoing a major effort to modernise how people perceive the fast-food chain. Public efforts to revamp Happy Meals – as well as initiatives to improve menu items such as fried chicken – attempt to change customers’ minds.

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