September 16, 2003 03:44 PM

Now that Justin Timberlake has hopped aboard the Golden Arches as the singing pitchman for McDonald’s, another pop-culture figure has joined with the burger chain in an effort to revive its flagging fast-food sales: Bob Greene.

Who? Believe it or not, it’s the handsome, fit fellow who has helped Oprah Winfrey lose weight time and again, The New York Times reports.

Greene is riding Ronald McDonald’s bandwagon to promote the new Go Active Meal, a $4.99 grown-up spin on the Happy Meal. Rather than fries and a shake, though, the meals include a salad and a bottle of water or a medium fountain drink.

And forget about dessert or a Disney action figure. The Go Active meal instead has a clip-on pedometer (to get customers walking) and a 10-page pamphlet with fitness tips from Greene.

The Go Active program will first be tested in several Indiana cities — not necessarily because the state’s populace is overweight, but because the McDonald’s chain is headquartered in Indianapolis.

Greene’s involvement is part of McDonald’s attempt to increase awareness of the healthy aspects of its menu, The Times reports, noting that salads with Newman’s Own dressing were introduced at its burger counters in March.

All of the nation’s fast-food chains have been under heavy criticism of late, for the high sodium and fat content of their offerings, in light of the country’s obesity epidemic.

“I think the pedometers are great,” Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, concedes to The Times, “but after most meals at McDonald’s you’re going to have to do an awful lot of walking to neutralize those calories.”

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