Later this year, bottled water will be added as a featured beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards, however, it will cost extra. Cheeseburgers will drop off entirely. The organization said 40% of young children eat fast food every day.
The company has been working with the not-for-profit Alliance for Healthier Generation to develop a comprehensive plan since 2013. Last year, the company distributed more than 3 million books to kids across Canada in the program.
Cheeseburgers and chocolate milk are being deleted from McDonald's Happy Meal menus. The Cheeseburger will only be available at a customer's request.
Beginning in June in the USA, only hamburgers or chicken McNuggets (four or six piece) will be posted as main item choices in the beloved kids' meals that features a toy hidden inside.
This is the latest in a series of improvements that McDonald's has made to its childrens' menu over the past seven years, some of them in partnership with the Alliance, which works with corporations and schools to improve the food environment.
Another goal is to make it easier to find Happy Meal nutrition info, or as McDonald's says, to "be transparent" with that info. In 2011, it began including Apple Slices in all Happy Meals along with a reduced portion of fries. McDonald's also pledged to serve more fruits, vegetables and grains. On Thursday, the chain said many of those markets are ahead of schedule in their progress on those efforts.
"I just feel like if you are coming to McDonalds, you're not necessarily looking for the healthiest option", she said.
Others were also pleased.
The American Heart Association called the move an "important step in the right direction" and urged McDonald's competitors to follow suit. According to NPR, McDonald's removed soda as a listed option on Happy Meal menus, and now has noticed an increase in Happy Meals ordered without soda as a drink. Although parents can order them in Happy Meals by request. A 2014 study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, found that even the healthiest options at fast-food chains were so-so at best.
McDonald's president and chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: "We recognise the opportunity that we have to support families as one of the most visited restaurants in the world, and remain committed to elevating our food, celebrating the joy of reading, and helping those in need through Ronald McDonald House Charities". "The approach here is tweaking".
Asked about the criticism, McDonald's points to the changes seen in consumer behavior when soda came off the Happy Meal menu.
Starting in June, McDonald's menu will no longer feature a cheeseburger Happy Meal, hungry kids' go-to for decades at Mickey D's.
The cut is made so the meals will lower the calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar that children are consuming at the Golden Arches.