How could something so happy – it’s even got happy in the name! – cause so much angst? By now you’ve certainly heard about San Francisco banning the McDonald’s Happy Meal
. (Note: they actually just banned the toy from being included in meals that don’t meet certain nutritional criteria but as a mother of four I can tell you that’s pretty much the same thing.) You’ve probably also heard that a judge overturned the ban
. The war on Happy Meals has grown pretty heated in the past couple of weeks and naturally, this battle has filtered down to the fitness blog world.
Against the ban: If you ban the Happy Meal toy kids can still get their fix (and parents their 30 minutes of playland-induced peace) by walking across the street to a variety of other establishments. There is no shortage of junk food or cheap, plastic, movie tie-in crap in this country.
Pro ban: my kids only want the Happy Meal for the toy. They will actually throw their chicken nuggets in the garbage. I know. (I circumvented this wasteful ritual by going to the thrift store and buying a huge bag of old Happy Meal toys for 1$ and then handing them out to the kids for various reasons like pooping in the potty rather than just in the general vicinity, sharing their gum with their brothers even if it was prechewed and sometimes just as a bribe to be quiet and let mommy poop on her potty and chew her own gum in peace.) So if you ban the toy my kids will never want the chicken nuggets or junior cheeseburger all on their own – yay!
Pro: I can’t even remember the last time we went to McDonald’s – we generally save the Golden Arches for long road trips where we stop every few hours to make an offering at the shrine of the man who invented the indoor playland, unsung hero that he is. So what do I care if they ban them or not?
Against: We have another long road trip in our future. Probably many. A free toy (even if I think it is the lamest thing ever) + a slide that smells like urine = toddler joy. God bless Ronald.
Pro: Maybe this is the kick in the pants fast food establishments needed to offer healthier choices for kids.
Against: They already do, people just don’t buy them.
Pro: It’s more of a gesture, a statement against childhood obesity, than anything else. We have to draw the line in the sand somewhere, right?
Against: Do we really want to make Happy Meals the forbidden fruit?
Against: It’s the parent’s job to decide what to feed their children and where to spend their money.
Pro: Perhaps this will spark some conversation about how to better educate parents and children about healthy eating.
Against: Children have to learn sometime how to make healthy choices and they’re not going to learn that skill by having some junk food randomly banned. Less than healthy food abounds and it is okay to eat it sometimes, just not all the time.
Pro: So use this new law as a teaching tool!
Pro: This kind of food is addicting. Literally. Plus those things are so processed they don’t even rot! So we need to do anything we can to keep it out of the hands of little bodies that are still forming neural pathways (unlike my brain which is shedding neurons by the second – every time I have to listen to the Animaniacs song another cell dies).
Against: So then this law is a piddly drop in the bucket – go big or go home! Hello, school lunches!
Against: Europe has tons of McDonald’s (I know, I’ve seen them!) and Europeans are notoriously Not Fat.
Pro: Really? You know you’ve reached the end of the debate when someone throws in the everything-is-better-in-Europe argument.
ANYHOW. It’s been a long day that started with the kids whining about having to eat whole-wheat chocolate zucchini muffins for breakfast (despite the name, they actually taste amazing) and ended with a fist fight that left two of them bloody and the baby screaming just because she figures why not, that’s just what people do in our house. So help my poor addled brain decide.
Oh, and just in case your brain hasn’t exploded yet, check out this new study
from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (see – you already know it’s going to be good because it’s European
!) that showed that obese children ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats than their slim counterparts. According to the researchers, it’s not what you eat but rather how good you are at portion control. Twinkie diet anyone
?? (Cliff notes version: Professor lost 27 pounds by eating mostly snack cakes. AND his blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides all went down.)
Are you in favor of legislation that would make junk food harder to buy? Does it make a difference if the food is intended for and marketed to, children? What do you make of the Norwegian study results? Did the Twinkie Diet blow your mind as much as it did mine?