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Battling obesity one Happy Meal at a time

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 November 2010 2 Comments

Four things my kids know about marketing and commercials:

  • Fruit snacks are neither fruit nor snacks.
  • Blowing up a juice bag and stomping on it won’t launch you into the air, though they have tried.
  • The toy is never as much fun as it looks on TV.
  • Ronald McDonald might seem happy, but he wouldn’t be if he ate his own food every day.

That’s why I’m yawning at the whole Happy Meal ban in San Francisco. They’re just not an issue for us. Yes, we eat them – maybe twice a month. I’m much more concerned about getting vegetables of the non-French fry variety down the guys’ gullets on a daily basis than I am about the occasional fall off the nutritional wagon.

Not that I would mind if they were banned universally. It’d mean far fewer arguments over toys quickly forgotten and a lot less plastic crap in my car and house that ultimately lands in landfills.

It’s just that I don’t think a ban is going to help.

There are a million things we can do to battle obesity. Serve better school lunches. Stop swilling soda. Curb our addiction to high fructose corn syrup – I’m interpreting the fact that the corn industry is cozying up to mommy bloggers as a sign that the industry is feeling the heat.

Any of those things would help more than banning a food.

Yes, for some – the time- or money-strapped – fast-food is a way of life. But you can’t legislate them out of that way of life. Los Angeles tried by banning new fast-food outlets in certain parts of the city. After a year, people living in those neighborhoods still were more likely than the rest of the city to be overweight, eat more calories in junk food and watch more television.

They also were less likely to eat out. So much for the theory that curbing fast-food will make a dent in the obesity epidemic. It didn’t in Los Angeles, and it won’t in San Francisco. Improving access to healthier foods, and educating parents about the hazards of crap, will, though. Not 100 percent, because there still will be those who insist that McDonald’s shakes are a great way for kids to consume calcium. You can lead a parent to milk, but you can’t make him think.

The only thing a Happy Meal ban will cause in San Francisco is a possible boon to McDonald’s franchises in Alamada. I can just see kiddies hopping the BART to Oakland to get a fix. It’ll be one more thing for helicopter parents to fret over.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Alex said:

    Excellent Points! I’m no fan of Happy Meals, but if it’s not happy meals, it will be chocolate bars or something else. It’s much easier to teach children moderation, good eating habits and personal responsibility than to try to reverse bad habits when we’re old and set in our ways—and sadly contributing to rising health care costs.

  • MtnMom said:

    McDonald’s food is gross. The fruit and veggie options are never fresh and taste like a dirty fridge. McFlurry’s are yummy, but I can make them much cheaper at home. I don’t think the ban is going to accomplish anything. Parents need to nourish their children with healthy food and plenty of outside play time. Happy Meals are not the problem, and, in my opinion, are only a tiny part of the problem. Too much sitting in front of the TV and computer (just ask my middle) and not enough rough and tumble pure play; combine that with too much junk and not enough fresh food…those are the problems and it’s up to parents to solve them. No Happy Meal toy? Parents will just go to the Dollar Store and buy another piece of plastic made in China. Big whoop.