Childhood Obesity, We’re Lovin’ It
My childhood must have been a sad one, because I don’t remember getting many Happy Meals. Sure, once in a great while my grandfather would give in to my pleas (ah, spoiling the grandkids!) and I would walk out of the golden arches, box clenched triumphantly in my hand. I don’t remember the burger or fries tasting that great, but the joy of digging through the box to find the toy is clearly etched in my mind. It was so infrequent, it was like a holiday onto itself.
This morning I saw on Huffington Post that McDonald’s in Brazil is being fined $1.6 million for marketing Happy Meals to children. Uh, derp?
There was a similar lawsuit back in 2010 that never made it, claiming that the fast food chain “unfairly and deceptively” markets the toys to children. I don’t think there’s anything unfair or deceptive about it at all. Happy Meals are eaten by children, so why would you not market to them? It’s not that much different from the sugary cereal or toy commercials run incessantly between Saturday morning cartoons. The problem with all this is not the marketing, the problem is that “Happy Meals are eaten by children.” Period.
Nothing has changed in 30 years in marketing to kids. I remember wishing for Happy Meal toys, Burger King crowns and my free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut that I would earn through the Book-It Program each month. The difference is, my parents wouldn’t take me to eat that crap. It blows my mind that we have become a society that can sue because we lack the ability to take responsibility for ourselves. Guess what? Five year olds are not getting in their cars, driving to a fast food restaurant, getting out their wallets and buying this stuff.
Now they’re trying to market “healthy choices” in their meals. Uhm, throwing apples into the mix does not a healthy meal make. Unless we’ve developed apples that absorb the rest of the fat and calories from a meal (if we have, someone please email me and let me know so I can buy a bushel or ten) it’s still a crap meal filled with crap food. A single cheeseburger meal, with kids fries (read: that teeny tiny packet) a 1% milk jug and a package of slightly slimy apple slices will run you about 520 calories, 20 grams of fat, 880mg of sodium and 22g of sugar. Eek! I won’t get into the adult options, because we know they’re all just as bad. Even their new excitedly touted “Premium McWrap” made with grilled chicken instead of fried runs 430 calories and 1130mg of sodium. Why not just get a salt lick and call it a day?
I understand kids can be picky. I’m not in a bubble where my children happily eat veggie burgers and zucchini sticks, and we never order pizza. It can take up to a dozen times trying a food for a child to finally decide they like it. I know it can seem ridiculous to constantly cook meals that meet groans at the table, but it’s our jobs to make sure our kids are eating a real whole foods balanced diet. I also know what it’s like to work long hours and come home and still need to get dinner on the table. I know the drive through can be a tempting option when daylight is running low and bellies are growling. With a little bit of planning, it doesn’t have to be your only (also expensive) option.
According to the CDC childhood obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. That means 17% of America’s children and adolescents are considered “obese.” This greatly increases their chances of becoming obese adults, and having the myriad of health problems associated with it. Let’s get out of line at the drive through, unplug the video games, and kick those kids outside to play.