“Healthy Meal” : The Right-Wing Media Rages Against Healthier Happy Meals

Following McDonald's decision to offer “more nutritionally-balanced” Happy Meals and First Lady Michelle Obama's praise of its move, the right-wing media jumped to attack McDonald's for supposedly bending to the will of the “fat police” and making Happy Meals “less happy.” However, numerous studies show that childhood obesity leads to significant health problems, and moreover, McDonald's reportedly made their decision in part so that parents could feel “less guilty” about buying their kids Happy Meals.

McDonald's Makes Apple Slices A Regular Part Of “Happy Meal”

McDonald's “Announces Commitments To Offer Improved Nutrition Choices.” From a July 26 McDonald's press release:

Today, McDonald's USA president Jan Fields announced the company's “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices.” The comprehensive plan aims to help customers -- especially families and children -- make nutrition-minded choices whether visiting McDonald's or eating elsewhere.

Menu changes underway include the addition of more nutritionally-balanced choices that meet McDonald's reputation for great taste and affordability, along with an increased focus on providing nutrition information that enable customers and employees to make simple, informed menu decisions.

“McDonald's will always try to do the right thing, and we know we can help make a difference in our communities,” said Jan Fields, president, McDonald's USA. “The commitments we're announcing today will guide the future evolution of our menu and marketing.” [McDonald's, 7/26/11]

CNN.com: “Happy Meal Gets A Makeover.” A July 26 CNN.com article reported:

McDonald's Happy Meals are getting their fat and calories trimmed, the fast food giant announced Tuesday.

The seemingly ubiquitous Happy Meals that have drawn the ire of health advocates and have been blamed for contributing to childhood obesity, will carry apple slices, reduced portion of french fries and a choice of beverage, including new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low-fat white milk.

The core of the Happy Meal will remain the same as kids will still get fries (a smaller portion) and a choice of a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets. All beverages, including milk, fruit juice, water and soda, continue to be options for the Happy Meal.

The changes are scheduled to begin September with the hopes that all 14,000 restaurants will transition to the new Happy Meals by the first quarter of 2012. [CNN.com, 7/26/11]

First Lady Praised McDonald's For “Providing More Fruit And Reducing The Calories In Its Happy Meals.” On July 26, First Lady Michelle Obama issued the following statement regarding McDonald's announcement:

McDonald's is making continued progress today by providing more fruit and reducing the calories in its Happy Meals. I've always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity. McDonald's has continued to evolve its menu, and I look forward to hearing about the progress of today's commitments, as well as efforts in the years to come. [Let's Move, 7/26/11]

Right-Wing Media Outlets Rally Against Healthy Alternative, Blame First Lady For Change

Fox Responds To McDonald's “Fat Police” With Outrage Over “Happy” Being Lost In “Healthy Meal.” During the July 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, the co-hosts repeatedly attacked McDonald's for voluntarily making Happy Meals healthier, claiming, in the words of Steve Doocy, that “there's about to be no more happy in your Happy Meals” because “they're being replaced with the healthy meal.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/26/11 via Media Matters]

HotAir: “McDonald's To Revamp Happy Meals Because You're Too Dumb To Watch What Your Kids Eat.” In a July 26 HotAir post titled, “McDonald's to revamp Happy Meals because you're too dumb to watch what your kids eat,” AllahPundit wrote:

Fair headline? Well, until now, when ordering a Happy Meal you had a choice between the traditional burger and fries and a more nutritious but-mom-I-don't-want-that burger with apple slices. But it turns out most of you were choosing “poorly.”

And so your choice had to be taken away. [HotAir, 7/26/11]

The Blaze: “Michelle Obama Might Have Taken The 'Happy' Out Of McDonald's Happy Meals.” A July 26 post to Glenn Beck's website The Blaze said:

A child could once feel excitement over hearing a parent utter those beautiful words: “honey, we're going to McDonald's for a Happy Meal.” But those carefree days are over and that sense of childhood wonderment and abandon is about to be seriously curbed by a new McDonald's policy that cuts an order of fries in half, throws apple slices, raisins and pineapple chunks around as if they were ketchup, and just generally makes Happy Meals “healthier,” and, less happy. And even though the apples are reportedly not well-received by customers, guess what? McDonald's is forcing the fruit in its Happy Meals anyway. Whether you want it or not.

And what's more, politics, perhaps even the White House itself, could be to blame.


So after all the years of satisfied customers “lovin' it,” it is political pressure, including First Lady Michelle Obama's war on childhood obesity, that reportedly forced McDonald's hands.


McDonald's: another casualty in the Nanny State's war on personal choice, or is the fast food giant bringing this on themselves? Will the new, and perhaps not improved, McDonald's menu affect your decision to patronize the long-time burger institution? [The Blaze, 7/26/11]

Weasel Zippers: “McDonald's Caves In To Michelle Obama,” “Because Parents Are Too Stupid To Make Their Own Decisions.” A July 26 Weasel Zippers post titled, “McDonald's Caves In To Michelle Obama's Food Police, French Fries In Happy Meals Take A Back Seat To Apple Slices” went on to add “because parents are too stupid to make their own decisions.” [Weasel Zippers, 7/26/11]

Malkin Holds “Unhappy Meal” Photoshop Contest. In a July 26 post to her website, Michelle Malkin wrote:

With the approval of First Nutritionist Michelle Obama, McDonald's is getting rid of caramel apple dip, reducing the French fries portion, and adding more apples to its Happy Meals offerings.

Mrs. Obama expects more.


They won't rest until the Happy Meal has undergone the total Berkeley makeover.

Next up: Goodbye, hamburgers. Hello, tofu burgers.

Goodbye, fruit juice boxes. Hello, kale/wheatgrass boxes.

I'm running out to Sonic before right now before they get their grubby Nanny State hands on my cheesy tots and cherry limeade.

Malkin's post went on to say:

Okay, all my wonderful Photoshop friends and readers. ... Send me your best Unhappy Meal makeover images and I'll post the best! Winner of the contest gets a Sonic gift card.

The following images are responses from Malkin's readers displayed within her post:






[MichelleMalkin.com, 7/26/11]

But Studies Show The Importance Of Healthy Eating Choices For Children

USDA: “More Than One-Third Of Children” Are Overweight Or Obese. A January 31 press release by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius today announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.

Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. [USDA, 1/31/11, emphasis in original]

Health Risks For Overweight Or Obese Children Include Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are numerous health risks both during childhood and later in life stemming from childhood obesity. From the CDC:

What are the consequences of childhood obesity?

Health risks now

  • Childhood obesity can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Obese children are more likely to have-
    • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). In one study, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39% had two or more.2
    • Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.3
    • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.4,5
    • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.4,6
    • Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).3,4
    • Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.3,7,8

Health risks later

  • Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.9, 10, 11 Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.12
  • If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.13

[CDC, accessed 7/27/11]

CDC: 17 Percent “Of Children And Adolescents Aged 2-19 Years Are Obese” ; “1 of 7 Low Income” Children Aged 2-4 “Is Obese.” According to the CDC, “Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese.” Additionally, “1 of 7 low-income, preschool-aged children is obese.” From the CDC:

2009 State Prevalence Among
Low-Income Children Aged 2 to 4 Years


2007--2009 County Obesity Prevalence Among
Low-Income Children Aged 2 to 4 Years


[CDC, accessed 7/27/11]

Overweight And Obese Children Are More Likely To Become Obese Adults. From First Lady Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” campaign's website:

Obese children may experience immediate health consequences which can lead to weight-related health problems in adulthood. Obese children and teens have been found to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance. In a sample of 5-to 17-year-olds, almost 60% of overweight children had at least one CVD risk factor and 25% of overweight children had two or more CVD risk factors. In addition, studies have shown that obese children and teens are more likely to become obese as adults. [Let's Move, accessed 7/27/11]

And McDonald's Happy Meal Change Was The Result Of A Business Decision

LA Times: “Business Strategy For McDonald's Is To Make Parents Feel Less Guilty” About Buying Happy Meals. From a July 25 Los Angeles Times article:

The business strategy for McDonald's is to make parents feel less guilty about feeding fast food to their children, so they'll become more frequent customers.

“People tell us they want to feel good about visiting us regularly, about the food options that we serve, and want to visit us even more often,” [President of McDonald's USA Jan] Fields said. [LA Times, 7/25/11]