McDonald's Happy Meal Nutrition Facts

McDonald's has changed its signature Happy Meal many times over the years. In 1979, the first of these kids' meals let children choose between a hamburger or cheeseburger, plus a side of French fries, a drink, cookies for dessert, and a toy.

In 1983, McNuggets (McDonald's take on bite-size chicken) became a Happy Meal option. With the growing demand for healthier options, the fast food chain's menu has continued to evolve.

Happy Meal Options

Kids can choose either the chain's classic hamburger or chicken McNuggets (four or six-piece) for their Happy Meal entrée.

If your kid wants a cheeseburger rather than a plain hamburger, just ask. While it is no longer advertised as a meal option, a cheeseburger can be substituted at a customer's request.

The child-sized meal comes with a small side of fries, but kids can also choose to add a Yoplait Go-GURT Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt or apple slices.

The options for a drink in the Happy Meal lineup are a small jug of 1% milk, a bottle of Dasani water, or an apple juice box.

If your child has food allergies or sensitivities, many McDonald's locations will accommodate substitutions if you ask.

Happy Meal Nutritional Information

McDonald's has been working to be more transparent about nutrition, particularly with Happy Meals. In 2018, the fast-food chain announced it was taking a more proactive approach by providing consumer-friendly nutrition information. As part of the new approach, the chain began rolling out changes to Happy Meals.

The changes are part of the McDonald's five "Global Happy Meal Goals" to be reached by 2020. The chain's pledge is to "offer more balanced meals, simplify ingredients, continue to be transparent with Happy Meal nutrition information, reinforce responsible marketing to children, and leverage innovative marketing to help impact the purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals."

When helping your child navigate food choices, it's important to keep in mind that a single food or meal will not impact their overall nutrient intake much.

If your child eats a smaller assortment of foods, it can be useful to understand where the foods fall within percent daily values (%dv) for nutrients. You can use this information to strategize the best way to achieve overall balance each day and throughout the week.

Nutrition recommendations for children are not the same as those for adults, so it's important to be aware of how food selections will affect your child's daily nutritional needs in ways that may be different from yours.

For example, fast food, prepackaged snacks, and other highly processed foods tend to have more sodium. Knowing the %DV of sodium that a fast food meal accounts for can help you balance the rest of the day's snacks and meals.

You can also opt for a lower sodium choice when ordering fast food, such as a Happy Meal with McNuggets and apple slices instead of fries. If your child does picks fries, sharing them can help reduce the meal's overall sodium content.

Again, when you look at what your child eats on average over the course of the week, a single higher sodium fast food meal will not affect their overall nutrient intake.

While McDonald's does provide nutritional information for all items on the menu (including Happy Meals) via their website's Nutrition Calculator, it's worth asking what these numbers really mean to your child.

Not every child needs the same amount of energy and nutrients, just like not every adult does. Encouraging kids to tune into their hunger and fullness cues, and mindfully enjoy their meal, is typically more useful than nutrition information numbers.

If your child needs to stick to a certain amount of a specific nutrient, you can find the information for sodium, calcium, iron, etc. on McDonald's website.

Make it a goal to provide your child with a protein-rich food, a carbohydrate-rich food, a fat-rich food, and fruits and/or veggies with each meal.

Here are a few of the most common options for a Happy Meal, as well as insight into where these choices fit into a balanced diet.

Entrees

A young boy eating a Mcdonald's Happy Meal
Elysee Shen / Getty Images

McDonald's Hamburger

This classic provides an iron-rich protein source (the patty), carbohydrate (the bun), some fat, and a few veggies (if it's ordered with lettuce and tomato).

4- and 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets

This entree provides a pretty even mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Sides

McDonald's French Fries (Kids' Size)

This side provides mostly carbohydrate and fat.

Apple Slices

This choice for a side provides a serving of fruit.

Yoplait GO-GURT Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt

This option for a side provides a small amount of calcium-including protein and carbohydrate.

Beverages

Dasani Bottled Water

While water has no nutritional value, the beverage does provide hydration.

1% Low-Fat Milk Jug

This beverage provides some calcium-rich protein.

Honest Kids Appley Ever After Organic Juice Drink

This drink contributes a small number of carbohydrates to your child's diet.

Meal Combination Examples

Hamburger Happy Meal With Apple Slices, Fries, and Low-Fat Milk

This meal has a balance of iron and calcium-containing proteins (beef patty, milk), carbohydrate (fries), and fat in addition to fruit (apple slices).

4-Piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal With Yogurt, Fries, and Apple Juice

This meal contains protein (chicken McNuggets, yogurt), carbohydrate (McNuggets, fries, yogurt, juice), and fat.

6-Piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal With Apple Slices, Fries, and Water

This meal provides protein (McNuggets), carbohydrate (fries), and fat, along with fruit and hydration.

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