Why McDonald's Stopped Putting Cookies In Its Happy Meals

Though it's been a staple on the menu since 1977, McDonald's Happy Meals of today are quite different than they used to be. Today's children get a choice of a hamburger or chicken nuggets, both of which come with 1% low-fat milk, apple slices, and a kids' fry. But once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, Happy Meals also included the likes of chocolate milk, cookies, and cheeseburgers. So what happened to the cookies?

Unsurprisingly, the cookies disappeared in 2004, around the same time McDonald's introduced low-fat milk to address complaints about how many calories its meals contained. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, only about 5% of school-aged children were considered obese in the 1970s, which increased to 17% by 2008. In an effort to face the problem head-on, McDonald's dropped its Happy Meal cookies in favor of those apple slices that don't seem to ever turn brown.

In an effort to make its Happy Meals more healthy and to appease critics, McDonald's made additional changes to its menu. McDonald's made a second round of menu cuts in 2018, removing other signature items.

Additional changes McDonald's made to its Happy Meals

When the move from whole milk and cookies to low-fat milk and apple slices didn't appease all its critics, McDonald's took another look at its kids' menu. In 2014, the chain removed fountain drinks from the Happy Meal menu (though they can still be ordered by request). Shortly thereafter, McDonald's even replaced its apple juice with one containing less sugar. McDonald's also nixed the kids' chocolate milk and cheeseburgers in 2018, though, again, Insider notes that these items continue to be available by request.

In a statement to CNBC, McDonald's said it wants its Happy Meals to contain no more than 600 calories, and under 650 mg of sodium. As far as calories go, the chain seems to have reached its goal, with all Happy Meals containing under 475 calories, but the sodium could still use some tweaking. The four-piece Chicken McNugget comes in at 500 mg, but the hamburger and six-piece McNugget Happy Meals contain 680 mg and 670 mg respectively. With these initiatives, it's unlikely the cookie will grace Happy Meals again anytime soon.