McDonald’s announced yesterday that it will change the classic burger (or McNuggets), fries and soda combo of a Happy Meal. In a marketing move that will help ease parent’s guilt over feeding their children fast food and appease first lady Michelle Obama and her fight against obesity, the company has taken away half the French fries in a Happy Meal and replaced them with three to five apple slices.

The company says that the changes are “in response to parental and consumer pressure.” If I were one of the parents who had been asking McDonald’s to change the Happy Meal, this tiny change would not make me feel as if McDonald’s was listening.

For the past few years, French fries have been optional with a Happy Meal. So has the soda. Parents could order low-fat milk in place of soda and an order of Apple Dippers in place of the fries. Low-fat milk will still be an option for the new meal that will debut in September, but the current Apple Dippers will be a thing of the past.

Apple Dippers are eight to 10 apple slices with a low-fat (but I’d assume highly sugary) caramel dip. Eight to 10 apple slices probably equate to one apple, which is a serving of fruit. The new three to five apple slices won’t equate to a serving of fruit. In fact, McDonald’s press announcement acknowledges that it’s only half a serving. However, McDonald’s will be phasing out the dipping sauce.

Less fruit is now in the Happy Meal. Fries are now automatic. The dipping sauce, which might get many kids to eat their apples, will be gone. And parents will have to tell McDonald’s to leave the fries out of the meal instead of having a choice of whether to include them in the first place.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the revamped Happy Meal will have 20 percent fewer calories than the current most popular Happy Meal — the one that includes fries. That’s nice. But do you know which Happy Meal had fewer calories than the new revamped one? The Happy Meal that included a full serving of fruit instead of the French fries.

McDonald’s says it will allow customers to order two bags of fruit instead of one fruit and the French fries. I suppose that parents could order two orders of French fries, also.

So in the end, the Happy Meal hasn’t really changed. It’s exactly the same, except that the dipping sauce that got some kids to eat apples will be gone. I know the dipping sauce wasn’t healthy, but removing it is not much to get excited about. But there you have it. The big change to the Happy Meal — no dipping sauce. Way to bow to parental concerns and fight obesity. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

McDonald's Happy Meal change isn't much of a change
No, the company didn't remove the annoying toys. McDonald's has replaced half the French fries with fruit.