Statement of CSPI vice president for nutrition Margo G. Wootan

McDonald’s has announced a welcome next step toward improving the nutritional profile of its Happy Meals.  For American children, that means that by the summer all Happy Meals will have no more than 600 calories, with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. 

More chains should follow McDonald’s lead in improving kids meals. The easiest first step is to take soda and other sugary drinks off the kids menu.  We’re encouraged that McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Dairy Queen, and Jack In the Box have already done so.  But still, 75 percent of the top 50 restaurant chains that have kids menus still push soda.  Many make it the default option.  As a major contributor to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease—soda has no place on kids menus. 

A growing number of communities fed up with the slow pace of change are turning to public policy to improve restaurant kids meals.  Ten local communities have passed healthier restaurant kids meal policies, and there has been movement in just the past few weeks on policies in Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Baltimore.  We expect to see more of those introduced in 2018 and beyond.