• Happy Meals

    McDonalds is in the news once again, this time for winning the approval of First Lady Michelle Obama with the company’s decision to include both fruit and French fries in children’s Happy Meals.

    Apparently the serving of fried potatoes will be reduced by nearly half, and depending on where you live and the time of the year, fruit such as apples, pineapple, raisins or even mandarin orange slices will now be included. This is all slated to take full effect by April of next year.

    The most successful food chain has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years for its marketing and inclusion of toys with kid’s meals. In fact San Francisco banned Happy Meals and made a huge statement by introducing a law that bars restaurants from offering free toys with meals. And others have taken notice; Santa Clara County in California passed a similar law also forbidding toy giveaways in unhealthy meals clearly geared towards children, and New York City is considering following suit. But the Golden Arches disagrees and says there’s no plan to remove the toys as they’re part of the company’s history.

    The question is – will McDonald’s action have an impact and reduce obesity, as Mrs. Obama believes?

    I don’t know many children that will eat the fruit and the French fries. I fear a lot of fruit will just be thrown away and I’ve seen similar scenarios first hand in my children’s schools. In my opinion – if you want to feed your kids healthy food, then stay out of McDonalds. After all, they are the original and undisputed king of junk food. I mean seriously, is cutting the portion of fries in half and adding a bit of fruit really that significant? What about the processed chicken nuggets? Some Happy Meals, whether burgers or nuggets, still clock in around 500 calories and have about 20 grams of fat. Certainly a few pieces of fruit can’t negate those stats.

    So much attention is focused on the French fries, that we forget about the processed white bread bun, low grade “meat”, fatty cheese, and does anyone know what’s actually inside a chicken nugget? To me this is just a marketing attempt by McDonalds to make it appear as though they’re making improvements. On the company website they even say, “You might be surprised at how seriously we take your child’s nutritional needs”. Seriously?

    Take a look at this article on the ABC website  which discusses how Happy Meals fall short of the nutritional needs of 12 year olds. Well guess what? In my opinion McDonalds meals fall short of everyone’s nutritional needs! Young, old, skinny or overweight – no one needs McDonalds. If you want a reminder, check out my Fast Food Fix on the chain for more of my thoughts…

    Sure adding fruit to a Happy Meal may sound like a great step forward, but I disagree. What would be great were if NO fries were included in the meals and only fruit or vegetables accompanied a real burger or some type of whole food. While fruit is healthy, the kids actually have to eat it in place of the fatty fries to see a marked changed in health. What would be truly remarkable is if a Happy Meal was created, without soda and high fat. Now those would be the meals I’d put a toy in! How’s that for an idea? Reward children that choose healthy food with a toy. Yeah, I know, I just don’t see that happening.

    What amazes me is that I feel the government is missing the point. We don’t need McDonalds to change our obesity epidemic – we need education! In the same way anti smoking ads show people dying of cancer, or biopsies of a smoker’s lung, let’s show our children what happens to the human body when garbage fuel is put into it.

    It’s ironic to me – in high school I was required to learn a second language in order to graduate. In elementary school I had to learn to sew, bake food, and participate in wood shop. Yet health education in our schools falls far short. What we need is a completely new education system for kids, which starts in kindergarten and continues through high school. I’m sorry, but I believe learning about the body and nutrition is far more important than speaking Spanish.

    But what do you think? Is this a genuine improvement by McDonalds, or a smart marketing ploy? Will it make any difference? Start weighing in everyone…