Before Shammy was born my husband I agreed that we would delay his introduction to McDonald’s food (and fast food in general) for as long as we could. I understand that we can’t shelter him forever and decided that if I make it to 5 years old when he gets invited to his first birthday party at McDonald’s we would have done very well. We may or may not make it but it’s a goal that I actively work for.
It saddens me when I see so many toddlers eating the crap with the “free” toy (and it pisses me off that they cater to them by having a toddler toy by request). Almost every friend I know will feed their kids a happy meal at least occasionally.
Many parents use the “we were busy with (insert big project that interferes with cooking) and he/she needed to eat”. I totally get that, I’ve been there. I’ve also been out of the house all day with nothing but snacks and the kid needs to eat. We’ve been on road trips where the adults stop at the McD drive thru but the kid doesn’t eat from it.
If you know you’re going to move, plan a party, remodel the kitchen, go on a trip or whatever other common excuse for the convenience of a happy meal know that there are far healthier choices that are quick and cheap. I admit that my son has eaten at Arby’s once or twice, while not the same as a home meal, for the same cost of McDonald’s minus the carcinogens and with a fraction of the saturated fat.
Then the parents get defensive and say “it’s only once in a while, what could happen?” Hopefully nothing! But sadly an occassional here and there evolves throughout the weeks/months/years into brand recognition, fixation and by the time they are in school it could be a daily or weekly convenience meal or treat for good grades or…. you get my drift.
I can see it getting bad when the kid will refuse to eat anything but a happy meal when sick, it has become their comfort food and the parent is either oblivious or in denial. And then this same kid may grow up with obesity, be high risk for other health problems and have ingrained bad food habits. I know, I was that kid.
What had started as an occasional kid’s meal treat as a toddler evolved into a fast food addiction by elementary school. My parents had to buy me KFC every night because I refused to eat home cooked dinners. We couldn’t leave the house without stopping at a drive thru. I had high cholesterol in third grade!!
It was a hard and conscious effort as an adult to clean up my diet. I still think that fast food tastes better than home cooked, I still crave it, I would rather eat from a drive through than from my kitchen, I still occasionally eat it but it takes a lot of will power and I ultimately agree that I’ll cut a few minutes out of my life expectancy because I’m weak and just have to indulge the craving.
I admit that I resent my parents for introducing me to that crap at such an early age and do wonder about the what if’s of my adult health and diet if it hadn’t been that way. This is something that I think about when trying to make decisions for my son as I don’t want him bitching at me at 21 like I bitched at my mother.
And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that we’re in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic. I work at a WIC office, I hear about it all day and see the McDonald’s cups and toys all the time.
Yet I don’t blame the parents, I blame the fast food industry’s ad agencies and marketing departments.
Fast food marketing works!
* Eighty-four percent of parents reported taking their child to a fast food restaurant at least once a week; 66% reported going to McDonald’s in the past week.
* Forty percent of parents reported that their child asks to go to McDonald’s at least once a week; 15% of preschoolers ask to go every day. (fastfoodmarketing.org)
I see the payoff of this campaigns first hand. Almost every toddler that I know recognizes the McDonald’s goldeen arches faster than they recognize Mickey Mouse (don’t get me started on the McDonald’s branded drive through toys).
A Standford University research study has revealed that pre-school kids prefer foods wrapped in McDonalds packaging over the same foods wrapped in unmarked packaging saying it tastes better. (newscientist.com)
I’m not trying to single the attack on just McDonald’s, they just happen to have the monopoly on the toddler market. Many other fast food chains are just as bad.
For the busy parent that is overwhelmed and on a tight budget, unable or unwilling to pack a sandwich and so they feel that they have no choice but feed their kid from a drive thru, here is a compilation of the best and worst children’s meal combination from popular fast food restaurants. Take your kid to Subway instead of McDonalds, but if you must insist on the arches (perhaps because you’ve got a craving too) at least know which happy meal is the lesser of the evils (and no, the cheeseburger with fries is not it). So at least try to get the apple slices instead of the french fries next time. Best and worst fast food kids meals
Recently a mother lost custody of a third grader that was 200 pounds and morbidly obese because she couldn’t control his weight, I wonder what this kid’s favorite food is….