Small Changes to the Iconic “Happy Meal,” Means Big Impact

Post by Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO, PHA (@nancyroman1)

Image of a McDonald's Happy Meal.

As someone who has dedicated her career to bringing better food to more people around the world, I never expected to say this … but “kudos” to McDonald’s.

The multi-billion dollar company announced today with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation an important step toward better nutrition for kids with big results by adding water as a default choice for drinks on the kids menu.

The result: fewer sodas and their corresponding empty calories will be consumed by children. And that’s worth celebrating.

Some will balk at plaudits for the Golden Arches given decades of research finding that high-calorie, low-nutrient foods laden with fat and salt have contributed to today’s health crisis.

But the big food sellers are necessary players in any real effort to make the changes our society needs. Quick service restaurants (a.k.a. fast food) are at the top of the list.

And can we have a little less judgment at the table.

Most fast-food companies that grew into multi-billion dollar corporations did so by catering to our taste buds and our wallets. I remember well those special occasions when Mom and Dad would take my brother, sister and me to McDonald’s. We would go through the drive-thru in our Dodge Dart Swinger, and sit in the backseat with the windows down and our hamburgers, fries and sodas in our laps. Those were happy times.

I also remember my Grandma making delicious homemade meals, that started with a large scoop of bacon grease or a couple sticks of butter.

Then the consequences of eating fast food or grandma’s bacon gravy weren’t so clearly linked to weight gain, obesity and chronic disease. Today, they are.

We now have the burden of knowledge. We now understand that the soda I was drinking was mere empty calories. We know that Grandma’s bacon gravy on pancakes is a no go.

Yet, it is ever so hard to change.

So, when a company makes progress in our omnipresent struggle to negotiate between our salt-and-fat-craving taste buds, and our knowledge about what we and our children should eat, it is cause for celebration.

So, kudos McDonald’s.

(Anyone else who wants to change the world through voluntary business practices, call me at 202-842-9001)