For health-conscious fast-food fans, the Happy Meal just got a slight bit happier.
McDonald's on Tuesday announced that, beginning this fall, it would add apple slices and reduce the portion of french fries in its children's meals, effectively taking away consumers' current choice between either having apples with caramel dip or fries as a Happy Meal side.
Cecil County Health Officer Stephanie Garrity approached the change with hesitant optimism.
"That's definitely a step in the right direction, but there's more to do," Garrity said. "They're still serving Coke with all kinds of sugar in it, which causes weight gain and, as you become an adult, that burdens your system and causes all kinds of chronic illnesses."
She said she welcomes any positive nutritional changes by fast-food restaurants, but noted that such food must still be eaten in moderation.
"You have to temper this with healthier alternatives," she said. "If you moderate how much you eat fast-food, it's not a problem."
Cindy Goody, McDonald's senior director of nutrition, said that the new directives are a response to customers asking for healthier choices.
But apparently, customers aren't making those choices in practice. Indeed, only about 11 percent of customers were ordering apples with their Happy Meals, even though 88 percent were aware they had the option, the restaurant said.
McDonald's says the change will reduce calories in its "most popular" Happy Meals by as much as 20 percent. The new apple slices will not be served with caramel dipping sauce.
Currently, the lightest Happy Meal is the four-piece chicken nugget meal served with apples and apple juice. It has 380 calories and 12 grams of fat. The Happy Meal with the most fat and calories is a cheeseburger served with fries and 1 percent chocolate milk. It weighs in at 700 calories and 27 grams of fat.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.