Do you want apples with that? Starting this fall, McDonalds will not be asking you that when you order a Happy Meal at the counter. The chain announced Tuesday it will automatically include apple slices in all of its kids’ meals.
The fruit has been an option in Happy Meals since 2004. But the company said only one in 10 kids—or their parents—opted to replace fries with a bag of apple slices. That statistic doesn’t surprise Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives at the University of Pennsylvania.
“A lot of people have found that when you have an opt-in, about 10 percent of people opt in,” Volpp said. “When you have an opt-out, about 90 percent of people stick with the opt-out default.”
He said those stats ring true when institutions make donating organs or saving for retirement the default, so it would make sense for kids accepting the apples offered to them as well.
Whether kids will actually eat those apples is another story, though. Volpp cites a study in which researchers made healthier options the default for school lunches.
“They actually found that it led to more of the healthy foods on the trays, but also more of the healthy foods in the trash can,” Volpp said.
Stephanie Vanderveur, director of clinical trials at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research, said a pared-down portion of fries that is also part of the fast-food chain’s change will have a larger health impact than the added fruit.
“To me, that’s the most impressive thing about the decision,” said Vanderveur. “If anything, that would be probably the one component of this that tells me that that might have some effect on obesity.”
The new serving of fries will be half the size of the old one. McDonald’s said changes to the Happy Meal will cut calories by about 20 percent.