(June 28) Hunting for a healthful alternative to french fries, two fast-food chains are offering grapes as a surrogate side item.

McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., and Denny’s Corp., Spartanburg, S.C., are integrating the fruit into their menus.

Courtney Romano, foodservice consultant for the California Table Grape Commission, Fresno, said McDonald’s had consulted the commission in its search for new salad ideas and came up with a fruit and walnut salad.

This menu item consists of sliced apples, grapes, low-fat vanilla yogurt and a walnut topping. Mark Lepine, director of food innovation and development for McDonald’s, said the dish was based on the Waldorf salads popular in the Northeast.

The fruit and walnut salad had been successfully test-marketed in Los Angeles, Fort Myers, Fla., and Philadelphia, he said, though he could not comment on plans for the item.

“It’s being used as a breakfast item, as a lunch meal and as an add-on or dessert, so it’s getting a lot of use,” he said.

Denny’s is offering grapes in a more pure form.

Instead of french fries, children ordering from the new D-Zone kid’s menu can choose fresh grapes, sliced cucumber, applesauce, a junior salad, carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes or Goldfish crackers.

Test-marketing showed nearly 50% of children chose one of these items over french fries, said Debbie Atkins, public relations manager for Denny’s. She said the new menu would go national June 28.

Lepine said McDonald’s would use grapes from California, Mexico and Chile to ensure a year-round supply, an advantage of grapes over other fruit side items.

“The difficult part is finding fruit that fits in with the consumer expectation of fast food and what they want,” he said. “Grapes allow us year-round coverage of a fresh crop.”

Romano said grapes were also ideal for foodservice because of their portability and taste, and their increased popularity in fast food restaurants was proof.

“It’s reinforcement of the messages we’ve been putting out for years: that they work well in foodservice. We hope to use this as an example,” she said.