By Jean Ross

Atlanta (WAOK/AJC)-How about a healthier Happy Meal? Fast-food giant McDonald’s began adding apple slices to Happy Meals in metro Atlanta Friday, a move designed to appeal to nutrition-conscious consumers and ultimately boost sales.

The meals, targeted at young children, generally include the choice of Chicken McNuggets, a hamburger or a cheeseburger and fries. The company cut the portion of fries in half to accommodate the apples, which come in a small bag of six pre-cut slices.

The change will go nationwide early next year,  but metro Atlanta diners can enjoy the healthier choice now. If you buy a Happy Meal you can get another one free between the hours of 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through Sept. 22 in the area’s more than 280 McDonald’s stores.

The fast-food industry has been heavily criticized by nutritionists and children’s advocates for contributing to the nation’s increasing childhood obesity epidemic. The problem is especially pronounced in so-called “food deserts,” areas where there are no grocery stores.

McDonald’s has had apples on its menu since 2004 as a side item or Happy Meal option, but decided to make it a permanent part of the package to ensure children get them and cut costs for parents, said Donavon Groen, president of the Greater Atlanta McDonald’s Operator’s Association.

 

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