McDonald’s is bowing to pressure from critics who say Happy Meals still have too many calories, even after the chain banished sodas, shrunk fry sizes, and gave kids apple slices. The company announced today that it’s radically reconfiguring the options children have to choose from, theoretically so that what they’re eating is “better” for them. Starting in June, McDonald’s menu will no longer feature a cheeseburger Happy Meal, hungry kids’ go-to for decades at Mickey D’s. Cheeseburgers will still be sold to small children who throw a Veruca Salt–y fit about it, but the two options listed on the menu — and therefore what most customers will order — will be a plain burger and a four-piece McNuggets.
This change only applies to U.S. locations, but McDonald’s also says that half of Happy Meals worldwide will be on a “more balanced” low-cal diet by 2022. The ultimate goal is that in four years, at least 50 percent of Happy Meals in the 120 countries where it operates will have fewer than 600 calories.
That’s healthier, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that anything sold by McDonald’s is actually healthy. In fact, this announcement coincides with another interesting development: Researchers at the Sorbonne in Paris report in a British Medical Journal article that eating fast food may increase your risk of cancer. The researchers studied the diets of 105,000 people and discovered that eating just 10 percent more “ultra-processed” food increased overall cancer risk by 12 percent, and their risk of getting breast cancer, specifically, by 11 percent. When possible, they advise steering clear of mass-produced packaged buns, soda, items containing high quantities of sugar, oil, or fat, and chicken nuggets — in other words, almost all of the food available at McDonald’s.