In conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit group comprised of the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association and organized to fight childhood obesity, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) will begin offering side salads, vegetables, or fruit as a substitute for fries with value meals in 20 of its largest markets representing more than 85% of global sales, McDonald's announced yesterday.

In addition to offering a side salad, fruit, or vegetable as a substitute for fries in value meals, McDonald's has committed to promoting and marketing only milk, juice, and water with its Happy Meals. McDonald's also said it will use its Happy Meal packaging to "generate excitement" for fruit, vegetable, low/reduced-fat dairy, or water options for kids. (Parents will still be able to order soda with Happy Meals.) It will also direct all of its marketing activity to kids with a focus on nutrition or well-being, according to McDonald's.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was founded by the American Heart Association and former president Bill Clinton in 2005.

Don Thompson, president and CEO of McDonald's, commented in the company press release, "We will continue to use our size and scale around the world to help educate, empower and encourage our customers to make informed choices so they can live a balanced and healthy lifestyle."

President Clinton remarked, "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 to step up to the plate and make meaningful changes."

According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the move by McDonald's to offer healthier alternatives to french fries and market nutritious beverage options to kids in 20 of its largest markets will impact markets representing over 85% of its global sales.

McDonald's, which has more than 34,000 locations around the world, said the change will be in place in 30% to 50% of the areas within the next three years and 100% of the regions by 2020.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.