Monday, May 3, 2010

The Happy Meal Debate

When I got my new Jetta in November, it came with Sirius Satellite Radio. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but I've quickly become a huge fan of Martha Stewart Radio! I listen all the time while driving, and I really enjoy all the programs.

In the mornings, I often listen to Morning Living with Kim and Betsy. They are too funny, and are always discussing topics that really interest me. Last week, they were discussing a county in California that has proposed to ban toys in Kids Meals or Happy Meals, unless the meal meets a certain nutritional standard. Huh? Yes, you read that correctly! This topic sprung a huge debate over whether or not its ok to give a toy with a Happy Meal, because childhood obesity in the U.S. is getting really serious.

Obviously this is a loaded topic, but I don't really see how a law is going to help prevent childhood obesity. First of all, if a child is obese, there are many more contributing factors than a Happy Meal. That child is not in control of his or her own dining destiny, and eats what his or her parent feeds him. So if the parent feeds them junk, the missing toy will have no factor on the child's weight. They are eating junk 24/7 and not just at restaurants. I have to also mention that McDonald's is currently offering healthily sides like milk and apples. I just wonder how many people are ordering these options?

Many callers were claiming that children "demand" Happy Meals because of the toy. I never did this as a kid. I loved going to McDonald's for a Happy Meal, because it was such a rare occurrence! No way was I going to be an obese child having a Happy Meal once a month or less! Not to mention, I cared not for the cheap, dumb toy! I wanted to have orange pop and fries! This was how infrequently we had McDonald's....a rare and special treat!

I doubt taking away the toy will deter parents from dining at McDonald's if they do so all the time (enough that they have a fat 5 year-old), and if the kid is "demanding" Happy Meals and they're obeying their kid , they have a whole other world of trouble headed their way.

I personally think that the county that is trying to ban the Happy Meal toy is trying to force the fast food industry to reform their menu. This might encourage the occasional McDonald's diners to rethink their choice in restaurants if the child really wants a toy, but I don't think it'll deter the hard-core McDonald's patrons. As far as trying to reform the fast food industry, I'd hope there might be other ways to do this. I don't have the answers, but I doubt legislation is going to fix the problem of child obesity in this country.

What are your thoughts?


Princess Ever After said...

I agree with you. The problem of childhood obesity starts at home. It is our choice of what we feed our kids. We can CHOOSE to pack them a healthy lunch. They do not have to eat cafeteria food.

I don't think it will hurt my kid to once in a while get a Happy Meal, just as long as I'm not feeding him that kind of food on a regular basis.

Suburban Princess said...

Yes it starts at home...but mcd's is cheaper than cooking a healthy meal! Fortunately my son thinks mcd's is a coffee and apple shop since thats all we get there!

We all wanted the cereal with the best toy so of course children want the toy in the happy meal.

Always Organizing said...

I totally agree with you. I work in public health and while I think legislation can be effective in certain health areas (for instance, second hand smoke exposure) I don't think removing the toy will make any difference. Why not spend that time/money educating parents about healthy eating or working with local farmers to bring mobile farm carts/markets to areas that don't have access to fresh veggies??? Just my 2 cents :)

The Preppy Princess said...

This one is such a hot button Miss Princess, but we have to agree with you. I'm not denying it is a *huge* issue, but legislating something like this doesn't make sense to me.

On an up note, hope you are enjoying the sun and warmer temps!

Lipstick said...

I agree...I think those Happy Meal laws are just kind of weird. For us, they are a grandparent treat.

QueenBeeSwain said...

what an interesting proposition. we were never allowed to have Happy Meals- the toys are just junk and we were not allowed to drink soda. at any rate- the parents are the ones that need to be reigned in if they let their little 2 year old eat all of that food. what is scary is that this might deter some people- I look at it with my "something's better than nothing" glasses on right now... even though as we both feel, it's what is preached and PRACTICED at home that is most important.