The world’s largest fast food chain, McDonald’s, has announced it will be offering healthy alternatives to french fries in its popular value meals. Customers will have the opportunity to choose a side salad, fruit or vegetables instead of fries for the meal.
The announcement came as more companies are responding to the pressure of consumer and government pressure to address the problems with global obesity.
McDonald’s often bears the bulk of the criticism from the restaurant industry’s way to temp diners with high-calorie and indulgent food. The restaurant chain said it will offer the healthy option in all of its 20 major global markets no later than 2020.
McDonald’s also agreed to only promote water, milk and juice as beverages in the children’s meals, known as Happy Meals.
Waist sizes around the world are increasing, setting off public health concerns. During recent years, the U.S. food industry has been giving in to pressure from government, parents and consumers who want to see children and adults slim down. Sugary sodas have been removed from public schools. Products have seen sugar, sodium and calorie reductions. Many restaurants have included calorie counts on their menus.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit agency, has fought with McDonald’s about a variety of issues, ranging from fattening food to Happy Meal marketing techniques, has approved the company’s move to add fruit and vegetable options to the menu choices. However, the non-profit says that the fast food chains still have a long way to go in offering adequate healthier food choices.
“McDonald’s slow march toward healthier meals made a major advance today, but a long road lies ahead for the company,” CSPI said in a statement.
Just a year ago, McDonald’s said it would start including calorie data on menus included in 14,000 U.S. restaurants and drive-thrus, which is ahead of national guidelines that require larger restaurant chains to display such information. In July 2011, McDonald’s made some adjustments to its popular children’s Happy Meals, reducing the portion of french fries by half and by adding apple slices to every meal. The move was made after continued pressure by CPSI, parent groups and other organizations.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that more than a third of Americans are considered obese, and about 10 percent of the nation’s healthcare bill is connected to obesity-related illnesses, which include heart disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.