Fueled by its leafy premium salads, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) is making a lot of green these days. Profits are up 38% to $0.40 a share, with strong sales at the store level reflected in a 9.4% jump in March-quarter comps.

The latest good news is a fitting exclamation point to CEO Jim Cantalupo's unfortunately brief tenure at the helm of the world's largest restaurant chain. While his passing last week is tragic on many different levels, he had steered the company so well that it should continue to ride the tailwind toward higher-margin premium foodstuffs and away from the ill-advised dollar menu.

When Whitney Tilson named Jim CEO of the Year in 2003, it was well-earned. The new McDonald's, like its "I'm Lovin' It" jingle, is hip, snappy, and festive these days. Yes, it was Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) that broke the mold with its high-end chicken salads, but McDonald's was quick to cash in on the trend, while at the same time giving its McNuggets a welcome makeover and rolling out healthier alternatives -- even if folks still flock to Mickey D's to stuff their faces with those amazing fries.

Along the way, McDonald's has left the discounting largely to leaner drive-thru mavens like Checkers (NASDAQ:CHKR) and opened up the pricing options to peers like Burger King, Jack in the Box (NYSE:JBX) and CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR). Indeed, Mickey D's clown-sized steps forward have been a move in the right direction for the health of the quick-service eateries as a whole.

The company has also seen continued strength in same-store sales so far this month, and that certainly bodes well for the Golden Arches. Jim may have passed away, but McDonald's has billions to serve before it sleeps.

What do you think of the changes at your local McDonald's? Will fast food ever be healthy? Mickey D's has only tacked on 100 new locations over the past year. When will expansion pick up again? All this and more -- in the McDonald's discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz would like to supersize his stock buy orders. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.