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McDonald's to Offer Healthier Happy Meal, Wins Michelle Obama's Praise

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In an effort to change its reputation as a bastion of bad health, fast-food giant McDonald’s is pairing french fries with apples — sans the caramel dipping sauce — as the standard side in Happy Meals. Additionally, the size of the fries will be reduced to 1.1 ounces from the current 2.4 to make room for the fruit. These combined changes will lower the overall calorie content by 20 percent, to around 600 calories total for the meal, which will still include a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets and a drink.

Although apples will be the featured healthy item in each meal, depending on season and availability, carrots, raisins, pineapples and oranges could also be included. McDonald’s estimates that these changes could save an approximately 49 billion calories in the diets of American children each year.

First Lady Michelle Obama released a statement praising the restaurant’s efforts. “McDonald’s is making continued progress today by providing more fruit and reducing the calories in its Happy Meals. I’ve always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity.”

However, some think the changes are not enough. In an interview with “Good Morning America”, nutritionist Rachael Richardson said, “A little bit makes a little bit of difference, and every little bit does count. A big difference would be actually replacing a whole bag of french fries for an apple.”

But McDonald’s president Jan Fields disagrees. “Now is a great time for us to be able to do something like this…I am confident about the changes that we’re making on our Happy Meals,” she told “GMA.”

The chain will begin rolling out the new Happy Meals in September, and they will be in all McDonald’s restaurants by April 2012. The price of the meal will not change, and a toy will still be included in every bag.

For the “GMA” interview with Fields, click here.

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