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McDonald's Happy Meals and other happy lunches -- let's take a look

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from from
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May 20, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • An advocacy group called for McDonald's to retire Ronald McDonald, but consumers have piped up, saying parents bear responsibility for their children's nutritional choices.
An advocacy group called for McDonald's to retire Ronald McDonald,… (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty…)

Ronald McDonald has been getting heat this week from an advocacy group irate at the company's continued marketing to children. The group wants the fast-food giant to retire the mascot and, perhaps more to the point, stop hawking food high in calories, fat and salt to kids.

But the fast-food chain says the clown is "an ambassador for good," adding that it has no plans to get rid of Ronald. The company's chief executive also said that consumers have piped up, defending their right to eat what they choose.

For an idea of what all the fuss is about, let's take a closer look at the food in question -- what a child might order at Mickey D's. You might know it by the term Happy Meal.

A cheeseburger Happy Meal -- a small cheeseburger with small fries and 8 ounces of 1% milk -- has 640 calories, 26 grams of fat and 1,040 milligrams of sodium, according to a nutritional menu from the McDonald's website.

Also available, we should point out, is a 4-piece chicken-nugget meal, complete with apple dippers and low-fat caramel dip and apple juice, at 380 calories.

For comparison, Burger King's much less easily parsed menu (at least when it comes to the contents of a BK Kids Meal) says that a small cheeseburger with value-sized fries and fat-free milk will pack 620 calories. A comparable chicken-nuggets-and-apple-slices meal with apple juice is 360 calories.

Now, for the heck of it, let's take a look at a traditional PB&J lunch served up at home.

For the sandwich, let's use two slices of Wonder bread (70 calories each), two tablespoons of Jif (190 calories) and one tablespoon of Welch's grape jelly (49 calories). Add half an apple (47 calories). And a cup of 1% milk (102 calories). According to CalorieCount.com, that lunch comes in at 528 calories.

healthkey@tribune.com

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