Little kids love Happy Meals. These meals taste yummy to them and the meals come with toys. Kids don’t question whether Happy Meals are good or bad for their bodies or minds. They just enjoy them. Read on to discover 10 McDonald’s Happy Meal secrets that kids can’t find out…
10. The Toys Are Provided To Turn Kids Into Loyal Customers
Adults know that Happy Meal toys are designed to draw kids into the whole McDonald’s experience and turn them into loyal customers for life, but kids generally don’t consider slick marketing angles. They see cool new Happy Meal toys on TV or online and then desperately want to get their hands on them. They want to play with the toys. McDonald’s executives and marketing VIPs know all too well that kids just can’t resist these cute and trendy little toys. That’s why the toys keep coming, year after year. The rationale behind offering the toys with Happy Meals is that kids will start to love McDonald’s early on in their lives, and then keep “McLovin’ it”. Kids 8 and under can’t wrap their heads around smooth advertising campaigns and see that they are being manipulated by companies. They are just too young to understand. McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food joint that caters to kids, but it’s the most successful. Kids prefer Happy Meals to other kid’s meals. They consider McDonald’s their favorite fast food restaurant. These little toys pay for themselves in terms of turning kids into McDonald’s fans. McDonald’s offers exciting new toys regularly, which are designed to inspire kids and get them begging their parents to visit local McDonald’s locations, or magic up Happy Meals via UberEats. It all seems fairly harmless at first glance, but it does invite deeper questions. Should children be drawn into eating fast food through the lure of these little toys? Do the drawbacks of eating fast food far outweigh the benefits that kids get when they play with new toys that spark their imaginations?
9. The “Less Healthy” Food Items Are More Popular
Little kids aren’t generally sitting around mulling over Happy Meal fat grams and calorie counts. They are thinking about eating burgers or McNuggets, shoveling in fries and, last but definitely not least, getting fun new toys with their Happy Meals. Most kids who ask Moms, Dad or caregivers for these meals don’t go for the healthier menu options. They want the hamburgers or the chicken nuggets, accompanied by fries and their choice of drink. Kids used to be able to get pop with their Happy Meals. Now, it’s milk, water or juice. Until recently, cheeseburgers were also an option. McDonald’s decided to stop offering cheeseburger Happy Meals because they were too high in calories. One hot tip is that parents can request cheeseburgers for Happy Meals by asking servers for them. Servers will grant their requests, although the cheeseburger Happy Meals aren’t officially on the menu anymore. Anyway, kids are content with the classics, even if the classics maybe aren’t so good for them. They aren’t chomping at the bit to enjoy Happy Meal sides, such as tubes of yogurt and apple slices. It’s not just to do with being kids and to do with lack of awareness of nutritional information. The truth is that adults don’t want the healthier items offered at McDonald’s, either. Only a few percent of Mickey D’s customers bother ordering the fast food joint’s salads. They don’t sell well at all. McDonald’s offers them because people wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t. It’s a PR thing. They need to be offered, just to send a message that McDonald’s cares about customers who want salads and cares about nutrition and health in general. Adults don’t want the healthier stuff any more than their kids want the healthier Happy Meals. People don’t generally go to fast food eateries to get the healthy eating experience. They go for typical fast food and don’t expect it to be the most diet-friendly and nutritious food that they have ever eaten.
8. McDonald’s Is The Biggest Toy Distributor On The Planet
McDonald’s ranks number one in terms of toy distribution worldwide. Just think of how many Happy Meal toys this “billions served” fast food restaurant has doled out over the years. It’s staggering. Most households with kids have a decent-sized stash of these toys lying around, most of which are made from plastic. There is even a resale market for Happy Meal toys. For example, the Inspector Gadget toy that was once offered with Happy Meals is considered a rare find these days. This toy had a bunch of different body parts that customers could collect. When they got all of the pieces, they were able to put together a Barbie-sized Inspector Gadget figurine. These days, people hunt down Inspector Gadget Happy Meal toys at auctions and this just scratches the surface. Other rare and coveted Happy Meal toys are also in demand and fetch good prices in the resale market. Happy Meal toys are big business. Kids never stop wanting them and that’s why McDonald’s is the world’s premier toy distributor. These toys come with Happy Meals in a host of countries, including Canada, England and America. All over the world, kids beg their parents for Happy Meals because they like the food and want more of the toys.
7. San Francisco Tried To Stop Happy Meals From Being Served
Childhood obesity is a hot-button topic. McDonald’s has been criticized for offering high-calorie Happy Meals to children, which might contribute to the child obesity epidemic. San Francisco municipal government leaders tried to make a difference by banning Happy Meals, according to the Latimes.com. This new initiative ramped up back in 2010. McDonald’s execs were not too happy about the ban, for business reasons related to profits and because the ban garnered bad publicity for Mickey D’s. In 2010, the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco decided to ban the majority of Happy Meals sold in Bay Area McDonald’s restaurants. When the measure was enacted, San Fran became the first big city in the USA to stop restaurants from providing free toys with kid’s meals that had more than a particular amount of fat, calories and sugar. Restaurants affected by the new ordinance also had to provide veggies and fruit with children’s meals that included toys. The new initiative was about keeping kids healthy, by keeping them away from foods that might cause them to grow obese. The Board of Supervisors was especially concerned with the negative impact of kid’s meals with free toys and bad nutritional profiles on low-income children. McDonald’s criticized the decision. A rep from Mickey D’s said that parents didn’t want the ban or ask for it. A similar ban has already been put into place in Santa Clara County. The ban was set to take effect in winter of 2011. McDonald’s got around the issue by charging a very low amount of money for the toys. The toys were made available for only a dime apiece.
6. Even “Healthy” Happy Meal Items Aren’t The Healthiest
Kids can get apple slices and yogurt tubes with their McNugget and Hamburger Happy Meals, as well as their choice of water, juice or milk, but even the healthier Happy Meals aren’t necessarily the healthiest food choices overall. Happy Meals still have a fair bit of calories. According to Livestrong.com, hamburgers in Happy Meals have 150 calories, and 80 calories are fat. Small fries have 230 calories, 100 of which are fat. Apple dippers come in at 100 calories, 5 calories of which are fat. This calorie count includes the caramel sauce. Without the sauce, the apple slices have just 15 calories. Water has no calories or fat. Milk has 100 calories, 20 of which are fat. Juice also has 100 calories and no fat content. 4-piece McNuggets have 180 calories, while the 6-piece McNuggets have 270 calories. The 4-piece nuggets contain 11 grams of fat, while the 6-piece nuggets have 16 grams of fat. The yogurt side has 45 calories, only .05 of which come from fat. So, let’s do the math. Based on these figures, a hamburger Happy Meal with fries, milk and apple dippers with caramel sauce will have 580 calories. That’s a fair bit for a child for one meal. If you’re concerned that your child is getting too many calories, do the math before ordering a Happy Meal. A 6-piece or 4-piece McNugget Happy Meal with milk and an apple dippers side will have even more calories than the hamburger meal that we just described. To get a lower calorie count for a Happy Meal, encourage your child to get water as a drink and order a hamburger, rather than McNuggets. Yogurt will have fewer calories than apple slices with caramel dipping sauce. Kids may not want water with their fun kid’s meals, but you can try. Good luck with that.
5. The $1 $2 $3 Menu Stole Some Popularity From Happy Meals
When McDonald’s started offering ultra-cheap menu items via its $1 $2 $3 Menu, this new menu began to steal a bit of thunder from Happy Meals. Extra Value menu items also grabbed some popularity from Happy Meals. Parents need to spend a lot of money raising their kids and many budget-conscious parents realized that they could get more for their hard-earned cash when they opted to order food for their kids from the $1 $2 $3 Menu or Extra Value Menu, rather than buying their children Happy Meals. $1 $2 $3 Menus and Extra Value Menus vary from time to time, but there are always low-cost options. As of April 2019, based on info from the official McDonald’s website, the $1 $2 $3 Menu includes one dollar sodas and 2 dollar McCafé drinks. McDonald’s encourages customers to visit their local McDonald’s locations to see what else is currently on offer for cheap prices. While coffee drinks aren’t smart choices for kids, who already tend to have plenty of energy and don’t need caffeine to stimulate them even more, there are usually food items on these cheaper menus.
4. Disney Toys Weren’t Available In Happy Meals For Awhile
Disney and McDonald’s used to have a very synergistic and happy business relationship, but things changed. When McDonald’s started getting flak for the nutritional profiles of its child-centered menu items, Disney got spooked and decided to pull out of the partnership…at least, for awhile. In the past, there were some adorable Disney toys offered in Happy Meals, such as charming plastic figurines of Woody from Toy Story, and Dumbo and Bambi. Those were the good old days. When Disney pulled out of the partnership, and this ended up being a temporary move, parents who wanted Disney toys for their children needed to get them from Disney Stores or find them in toy shops on Main Street USA in Disneyland, or at Disneyworld. According to Ad Age, Disney severed the partnership in 2006, but came back on-board with McDonald’s in 2018. One-quarter of customers who come to McDonald’s are families, so Disney changed its mind, to stay connected to these families.
3. Kids Get Book Excerpts With Happy Meals In New Zealand
Kids in North American who love McDonald’s Happy Meals might feel jealous of kids in New Zealand who love Happy Meals. In New Zealand, kids are able to get Roald Dahl book excerpts along with their Happy Meals, in lieu of the usual plastic toys. Roald Dahl book excerpts aren’t offered as toy replacements in other nations. Based on information from Mentalfloss.com, New Zealand McDonald’s are going educational in 2019, by providing kids with access to snippets from these wonderfully amusing and whimsical books. This is a great idea. I haven’t talked to any kids in New Zealand lately, so I’m not sure how they feel about getting book excerpts instead of toys. Some kids really want the plastic toys. The Roald Dahl-inspired Happy Meals do sound fun, though. They come with excerpts of Lucky Charlie Bucket, Fantabulous BFG and Amazing Matilda, plus activities and stickers. New Zealand McDonald’s are anticipated to dole out 800,000 of the book excerpts over a six-month period.
3. Cheeseburger Happy Meals Were Loaded With Sodium
McDonald’s cheeseburgers are so good, but they’re apparently pretty salty. That may explain why I’m a fan. In fact, it does explain it. Anyway, McDonald’s cheeseburger Happy Meals are no longer on the menu, in large part because of their high sodium content. Parents can ask for them at the counter and get their wish, but they are not official Happy Meal menu items any longer. Apparently, the cheese in these burgers bumps up their sodium content, versus hamburgers. McDonald’s is trying to clean up its image by keeping cheeseburgers off the Happy Meal menu. It’s about sodium and also calories. McDonald’s is trying to keep all Happy Meals under six hundred calories and the cheeseburger Happy Meals exceeded that calorie count cutoff. McDonald’s stopped offering Chocolate Milk as a Happy Meal option for the very same reason. It scored too high on calories. Parents can request chocolate milk, just like they can request cheeseburgers, but McDonald’s Chocolate Milk is no longer an official Happy Meal menu option. Sodium and calorie counts vary based on which Happy Meal menu items are chosen. McDonald’s provides full nutritional information at its official website. Overall, the fast food joint expects sodium counts in Happy Meals to decrease by up to seventeen percent because of the changes.
2. A Mom From Sacramento Sued Mickey D’s Over Happy Meals
One mom from Sacramento, California decided to pursue litigation because she felt that McDonald’s was robbing her of her capacity to control her child’s dietary choices, by tempting her kid with Happy Meals. This mom got together with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and sued McDonald’s Corp. in 2010. The lawsuit stated that McDonald’s free toy giveaways with Happy Meals constitute deception towards kids, by taking control over kid’s diets away from parents and encouraging children to eat unhealthy food. Taking on Mickey D’s in a lawsuit would be daunting. Imagine the team of high-powered, Harvey-Specter from Suits-type lawyers that McDonald’s has on retainer. The lawsuit was eventually tossed out. The judge wasn’t really feeling the whole argument. McDonald’s is quite open about nutritional information. Plus, parents do have the option of not patronizing McDonald’s locations. They may need to put up with some tantrums to enforce “no McDonald’s” bans on their kids, but plenty of parents manage to keep their kids clear of Happy Meals. So, it’s not too surprising that this lawsuit didn’t go the distance.
1. Many Adults Buy The Meals For Themselves
An adult noshing on a Happy Meal is not an uncommon sight. Some adults do it for portion control, or they pretend to, because they really want to get certain Happy Meal toys. The latest Avengers: Endgame Happy Meal promotion will probably drive plenty of Marvel fans who aren’t children to McDonald’s locations. According to Laughingplace.com, kids of all ages can collect Avengers toys that are available only in Happy Meals. They can also unlock seven Avengers virtually, through the fast food joint’s own mobile software app. They can also gain access to behind-the-scenes footage from the film. Many adults enjoy collecting toys, just like kids do. Look at the whole Funko phenomenon. Toys make everyone happy. Adults love displaying toys and maybe even playing with them, whether they are Funkos or Happy Meal toys or Barbies or whatever. Now that you’ve discovered some secrets about Happy Meals that kids can’t find out, you’re in the know. You may be craving a Happy Meal, too.