The Happy Meal at McDonald’s has been a staple for years as the go to “treat” meal for kids.  If you did all of your chores, didn’t pour finger paint all over the dog, and went in the big boy potty, then you might be lucky enough to get a Happy Meal for dinner.  Or if you’re like some parents and mail it in every night, this can become an every other day dinner for their budding obese children.  Chick-Fil-A redid their kid’s meals a couple of weeks ago, engineering a new and healthy entree with the grilled chicken nuggets, along with healthy side options like apple sauce and fruit cups, and low fat milk.  McDonald’s has now too dipped their toe in the pool of modified kids food with their new Happy Meals.

Traditionally a Happy Meal comes with four chicken McNuggets or a hamburger or a cheeseburger as the main course.  McDonald’s has bypassed any healthy revisions here and chose to concentrate totally on their sides and beverage options.  This is a pretty weak display of creativity with all of the entree options containing the bulk of the fat in these meals.

Here’s where things change, very slightly.  The old way of the Happy Meal gave Bill Jr. and Clarissa the option of either getting a small fries or apple slices.  I estimate that the percentage of tikes getting the apple slices in favor of hot, golden fried french fries was less than 1.  McDonald’s has attempted to enable the best of the all worlds for kids and their parents by having both in each meal.  Gone is the small fries, which has been replaced with a kids size, topping off at a cool 100 calories and 5 grams of fat.  This is quite a savings compared to the 230 and 11 in the small.

Apple slices are now standard in any kids meal.  The fact that “only select apples” match the standards needed for these slices is borderline laughable, but it’s always good to see only two ingredients for these: apples and calcium ascorbate to maintain color.

Beverage options now consist of 1% white milk, fat free chocolate milk, or apple juice.  McDonald’s is really spouting off about the fat free nature of the chocolate milk, which packs 130 calories, but has all of the calcium and Vitamin D benefits that milk provides.

To me the new Happy Meal doesn’t seem very different at all from the old Happy Meal.  The entrees are the same, the same sides are involved, only with different sizes and quantities, and the only new drink is the fat free chocolate milk.  Channeling my inner 8 year old, I’d get the 4 piece chicken McNuggets and the Chocolate Milk.  Coupled with the apple slices and fries, this Happy Meal still contains 440 calories and 17 grams of fat.  Chick-Fil-A’s new, comparable meal only has 230 calories and 3 grams of fat.  This is a pretty easy decision for parents trying to make healthy decisions in an unhealthy world.

~Fast Food Geek staff