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McDonald’s moves toward a healthier menu

Under pressure to provide healthier meals, McDonald’s Corp. said Thursday that it would no longer market some of its less nutritional options to children and said it also planned to include offerings of fruits and vegetables in many of its adult menu combinations.

It plans to make the changes to its menu in 20 of the company’s largest markets, which account for more than 85 percent of its overall sales, including overseas. Putting them in place will take about three years for half its restaurants and will not be chainwide until about 2020.

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The offerings, which were announced in conjunction with the Clinton Foundation’s campaigns to reduce childhood obesity, are part of McDonald’s efforts to compete for health-conscious customers by featuring food choices that are lower in fat, salt, or sugar than more traditional burger-and-fries options.

“If we want to curb the catastrophic economic and health implications of obesity across the world, we need more companies to follow McDonald’s lead and step up to the plate and make meaningful changes,” former President Bill Clinton said in a news release.

Although it has added salads, fruits, and cut raw vegetables to its menu in recent years, the chain has experienced flat sales across much of its business in the United States and Europe, and it forecast this summer that little would alter the company’s financial picture anytime soon. The millennial generation, a key demographic that is being wooed by fast-casual restaurants like Panera Bread and Chipotle, in particular has not become a loyal patron of McDonald’s.

As part of the menu changes, the company said it would use its arsenal of marketing tools, from menu boards to national television advertising campaigns, to help customers understand the nutritional choices available.

McDonald’s, which estimated the effort would cost about $35 million, said it is one in a series of steps it has taken toward changing its menu to suit contemporary tastes and to try to address health concerns raised for years by nutritionists.

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