McDonald's has started rolling out its new, healthier Happy Meals in some markets.
By the end of this week, the offering will be on the menus of McDonald's restaurants in the New York Tri-State, Southern California and Sacramento and Greater Bay, Calif., markets.
The Happy Meals automatically contain ¼-cup of peeled apples and a smaller portion of french fries. The changes cut the classic menu item's calorie count by 20 percent.
The change is part of the company's recently announced "Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choice" which strives to help customers make nutrition-minded choices whether visiting McDonald's or elsewhere.
The new Happy Meals are expected to be available nationwide by the first quarter of 2012.
In addition to the apple slices, fat-free chocolate milk and 1-percent white milk will be offered as beverage choices. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apples will be available upon request.
"We're proud to be among one of the first regions in the country to debut the new Happy Meal," said Mason Smoot, vice president and general manager, McDonald's New York Metro Region.
"At McDonald's, the customer always comes first and with the new Happy Meal we are reinforcing our commitment to offer our youngest customers improved nutrition choices," added Michael Mangione, McDonald's owner/operator and president, McDonald's Operators' Association of Southern California (MOASC).
The new offering is expected to introduce about 100 million cups of produce annually to McDonald's younger consumers, according to Scott Rodrick, owner/operator of several San Francisco area McDonald's.
Prior to the upgrades, the San Francisco market has been grappling with a proposed ban on Happy Meals all together. Last year, a compromised law went into effect that required kids' meals to meet certain nutritional standards before they could be accompanied by a free toy.
In addition to adding a produce or low-fat dairy option to every Happy Meal, McDonald's will reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations by 2020. Furthermore, the company will reduce sodium by an average of 15 percent across its national menu by 2015.
More Happy Meal fruit and vegetable choices are under development and expected to roll out within the next few years.
Read more about health and nutrition.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.