While I’m not out marching to re-instate the Meal that is Happy I’m also (to my friends’ & readers’ shock & dismay) not out campaigning to spread the ban from San Francisco across the nation.
Allow me to share with you why:
1. The Happy Meal is a teaching tool. My child is on the receiving end if myriad NOs! even at the young age of 4 1/2. That said, each NO she receives is fodder for an age appropriate discussion about why. We visit our local McDonalds a couple of times a month for some playscape-time & a snack of apples and milk. I deliberately choose this fast food emporium because of the conversations & opportunities it provides me to parent. Which leads me to…
2. The Happy Meal is only the first of many. Given my tattoos and quirky clothing choices people often assume I am a permissive parent. Hello cover not indicative of the book! Sure I’d be all in if we could ban Happy Meals, age inappropriate skimpy clothing, R rated movies viewed by tweens, a few certain trashy pre-teen book series etc etc—-but we cannot. In my eyes the Happy Meal is only the first of many realizations my child will have that other kids can do things/eat things she cannot. At the age of 4 ½ she already can carry on her *own* conversation with regards to this: Why can she have ____ and I can’t? (dramatic pause) I know, Mama. Because she’s not your girl (exceedingly long melodramatic sigh).
3. One girl’s Happy Meal is another Mom’s Pop-tart. We may not consume Happy Meals in this family, but we do have our share of junk in the house. The ban caused me to realize while I scoffed! & was horrified! anyone would choose to feed a child a Happy Meal my affinity for the Pop-tarts (insert your junk food of choice here) isn’t really all that different. I wasn’t the most popular mom on the block when I pointed out to friends we don’t always practice the healthy eating we preach and we seem to be doing ok—-but it appears to be true. Do I eat junk food daily? No. Do I have me some chocolate brown sugar cinnamon occasionally? I have to say yes. And I’m still pretty healthy 80% of the time and don’t want my Pop-tarts banned.
4. (All of the above said I’m painfully aware:) It takes a village. Of course I want all of our kids to eat healthy, non-hormone laden, organic foods. Yes I’m all too aware 15% of American children are overweight putting them at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Yes it breaks my heart that, in some states, childhood obesity is over 30 percent. I simply do not believe a ban is the answer—I believe education is. I’m grateful for the access I have to information others may not and spend hours a week writing & filming videos about this stuff for free. Teaching, in this woman’s opinion, beats the proverbial pants off a ban any day as the more I’m told I cannot have something the more ALLURING that something becomes. Teach me why I do NOT WANT IT & I’ll make different choices willingly.
The Editor’s Review:
Not all parents are as awesome as you are with knowing, teaching, balancing.
The laws are not banning Happy Meals, just the practicing of giving a toy with meals marketed to kids that don’t meet certain (minimal) nutrition guidelines. I see that as an extension of the FCC rules that prevent the marketing of junk food using kids cartoon characters.
I am not a junk-food vigilante, but I have learned about nutrition over the years. My kids are past Happy Meal stage. When they were younger I had no clue about nutrition and regularly bought them Happy Meals. I teased my son that he wasn’t really “mine” because he didn’t like the fries. My teenage son left me a grocery list note: “If my [sister] gets Toaster Strudel, I get Pop Tarts.” Now, my daughter calls me from college to ask for her favorite Cooking Light recipes. I just had a Fudgy Pumpkin Brownie for breakfast – but it was a healthy fitblog recipe and the cocoa is a good source of anti-oxidants. 😉
I generally support these laws. The food industry is like the tobacco industry with their insidious ways of getting us to eat cr@p (adding salt, sugar, fat, etc. to foods where we least expect it because our bodies are hard-wired to want those foods). They resist providing nutrition information, and don’t make it easily accessible (I’ve had to email McDs to get info on their oatmeal and smoothies- its not on their websites).
They price unhealthy choices much cheaper than the healthy ones. (A Happy Meal is cheaper than a grilled chicken sandwich or salad.) They actively market unhealthy food to kids!
If only getting a toy when you get a meal with milk and apple slices/carrots instead of soda and fries encourages parents to think twice about what they are ordering for their kids, I don’t see the harm. Yes, it is Big Brother-ish, but given the manipulative ways of the food industry, I guess I am willing to put up with the government intrusion to help with the imbalance of power/information.
Hhhm, would I support a law that bans giving a toy inside sugary cereal boxes? Probably.