I heard on the local news this morning that some New York City council members are introducing a bill today to ban fast food companies from including toys in kid’s meals, a measure similar to one that has already passed in San Francisco.
In a statement, City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie said, “While I recognize that ensuring children have access to, and eat more, nutritious meals is ultimately the responsibility of their caretakers, the City Council can empower parents by making it harder for the fast food industry to target children with predatory marketing techniques.”
If you are not already familiar with recent measures taken in NYC on nutritional issues, NYC already bans trans fats in restaurant foods and requires chain restaurants to display calorie counts. The New York City Health Department is also involved in the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a national effort to prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods.
State and federal governments do have a right to be worried: the medical costs of obesity totaled about $147 billion dollars in 2008. Here’s where parents should be worried too: 1 of 3 children in the United States is considered overweight or obese.
My husband and I do not take our children to eat at fast food restaurants. We have tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle ourselves, so it makes sense that we would extend this to our children. I believe that if my children see me making healthy decisions about what I eat, they will prefer to eat more healthy, too. However, while I struggle just like other families with getting my kids to eat more vegetables, they do like to eat whole wheat bread and lots of fruit.
One of my friends was critical when she found out we didn’t eat at fast food restaurants. She told me that by forbidding my children from eating fast food, I was setting them up for desiring it more as they got older- thus causing the weight problem I am trying to avoid. “What are you going to do,” she said, “when they get invited to birthday parties at McDonalds- say no?” I told her we certainly would let our children go to a birthday party at McDonalds. We also go out for pizza at our local pizzeria or burgers and fries at the diner on occasion. If my children are at a birthday party, they eat the pizza and cake. We do not forbid any of these kinds of foods- we just want fast food or junk food to be the exception. I tell my kids we eat healthy foods to make us grow.
I do sympathize with what the NYC Council is trying to do, but I’m not sure banning toys in kid’s fast food meals is the answer. It is hard to believe anyone out there thinks a Happy Meal is nutritious- other than the fast food companies themselves- but a lot of families patronize these restaurants for their own reasons. However, I do agree that parents should have nutritional information on the foods their children eat and this information should be easy to understand.
Interestingly, on their website, McDonalds states “It may surprise you to learn that our advertised 4-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal with Apple Dippers, low-fat caramel dip and 1% low-fat white milk is relatively low in fat, sodium and calories, providing less than a third of the government’s daily recommendations for total fat, sodium and calories according to the USDHHS and the USDA 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” If you are interested in the nutritional content of a McDonald’s Happy Meal, I’ve included that information here.
If you have comments on the proposed ban on toys in fast foods, I would be interested in hearing them.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Elizabethsboys, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Babble.