McDonald’s: Nutritional upgrades to apply to P.R. restaurants

Written by  //  July 27, 2011  //  Retail  //  No comments

McDonald's Happy Meals will have fewer calories, fruit option starting Oct. 1.

The menu changes announced Wednesday by McDonald’s that call for reducing calories and adding fruit to children’s Happy Meals, as well as improving choices for adults, will apply to Puerto Rico’s restaurants, operator Arcos Dorados said.

Menus will begin to change starting Oct. 1 and are part of the constant evolution that the chain has been experiencing in recent years and an example of “its commitment to the pursuit of a better quality of life,” company officials said.

The new Happy Meal will include four items, including a new fresh fruit choice that will vary according to the season. All of the combinations will add up to less than 600 calories, representing less than one-third of the daily intake value proposed by the World Health Organization for children six to 10.

As part of its Happy Meal makeover, McDonald’s has created a new size of fries exclusively for children, with an average of 100 calories, which represent less than half of the previous version. The company has also reduced the amount of sodium in an average of 10 percent in breads, in the chicken McNuggets, cheese and ketchup, improving the nutritional profile of the three options in the Happy Meal: the hamburger, cheeseburger and McNuggets. Moreover, the amount of sugar added to its juices has been reduced by about 40 percent.

According to the Associated Press, currently, the lightest Happy Meal is the four-piece chicken nugget meal served with apples and apple juice. It has 380 calories and 12 grams of fat. The Happy Meal with the most fat and calories is a cheeseburger served with fries and 1 percent chocolate milk. It weighs in at 700 calories and 27 grams of fat.

“This is a clear and firm demonstration of the high level of commitment we have with the welfare of our consumers,” said Woods Staton, president of Arcos Dorados. “Our company cares about being in tune with society trends and preferences and therefore we want to be sure to offer products in line with a rich and healthy and balanced life. We will continue supporting initiatives that encourage physical activity.”

As for the rest of the menu, Arcos Dorados also announced the inclusion of a salad options to substitute french fries.

Also, with the reduction of salt in all of its breads, cheese and ketchup, McDonald’s is also cutting back the amount of sodium in all sandwiches in its main menu, including the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, hamburger and cheeseburgers, as well as its chicken sandwiches.

The addition of healthier options is the latest in a string of changes McDonald’s has been integrating since 2002, when it introduced its first salads. Yogurt with granola was added in 2005, while trans fats were eliminated entirely in 2007.

Despite its apparent move toward a slightly healthier menu, the restaurant chain’s announcement was still subject to quick criticism Wednesday.

In its report, the AP quoted Kelle Louaillier, executive director of a group called Corporate Accountability International, as saying that McDonald’s “is just trying to get ahead of impending regulations that will restrict the marketing of junk food to children and require restaurants to post nutrition information on menus, among other changes.”