Pendleton McDoinald's is among the first to sell the new Happy Meal

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McDonald’s putting apple slices in every Happy Meal

This week, McDonald’s restaurant in Henry County will launch a new Happy Meal in support of the company’s recently announced ‘Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choice’ which strive to help customers – especially children and families –make nutrition-minded choices whether visiting McDonald’s or elsewhere.

Henry County is among the first markets to receive the redesigned Happy Meal after local stores participated as a test-market for the nation-wide launch.  McDonald’s Restaurants in the area began testing the new Happy Meal in 2010.

Available in Pendleton this week, and nationwide by the first quarter of 2012, the new Happy Meal automatically includes ¼ cup, or ½ serving, of apple slices as a side to the choice of chicken McNuggets, a hamburger or cheeseburger, and choice of beverage, in which fat-free chocolate milk and one-percent white milk will be options. In addition to apple slices, the meal also includes a new smaller size french fries (1.1 ounces). For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apples will be available upon request.

By adding fruit in every Happy Meal, McDonald’s hopes to address a challenge children face in meeting the recommended daily consumption of produce. McDonald’s has been offering apples as a requested Happy Meal choice since 2004, and while recent research found that 88 percent of McDonald’s customers are aware of the option, the apples are chosen in only 11 percent of Happy Meal purchases.

“We know that helping kids to make good nutrition choices may be a challenge,” said Martha English, Owner-Operator McDonald’s Restaurants of Kentuckiana. “With the new Happy Meal, we’re helping to support parents in encouraging their children to enjoy the foods that are good for them along with the foods they love by automatically including both apples and fries as part of a balanced, kid-appropriate meal. We’re excited this new offering will introduce about 100 million cups of produce annually into the diets of our youngest customers.”

“Recent research has shown that younger children are consuming more fruits and vegetables, but we still have a long way to go to increase consumption to meet daily recommendations for these important food groups,” according to Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation. “We applaud McDonald’s effort to celebrate produce in every Happy Meal which further strengthens their seven years of support in our campaign to educate children on the benefits of fruits and vegetables.”

McDonald’s USA LLC said that the new Happy Meal is the latest example of its ongoing menu evolution, which has included adding low-fat milk (1991), changing the McNugget recipe so that it’s made with white meat chicken (2003), and offering new Happy Meal choices like Apple Dippers with Low-Fat Caramel Dip (2004). More Happy Meal fruit and vegetable choices are under development and expected to roll out in the coming years.