Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Childhood obesity through the lens of McDonald’s

Posted by sanityinjection on July 10, 2009

I was motivated to post by a recent McDonald’s ad touting their “healthy options” for kids. According to the fast-food giant, these include “Apple Dippers – Fresh apple slices with low-fat caramel dip on the side. We also have fruit’n yogurt parfaits and milk in fun-to-drink jugs.” Other fast food places such as Burger King offer similar choices for kids.

I guess this is supposed to make parents feel less guilty about taking their kids to a fast-food place? But the hypocrisy here is a little ridiculous. First of all, if you’re truly concerned about eating healthy, you’re not going to go to a McDonald’s at all. Nobody gets a craving for salad and thinks, “Time to hit Mickey D’s!” when there are so many better places to get one.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think it’s bad for McDonald’s to offer healthy options. It’s especially convenient if you’ve got a group of five people and only four are carnivores.

No, my scorn is directed at the special healthy choices that are just for kids. Think about it this way: While Junior is having his milk and apple slices, what are Mommy and Daddy eating? How much you want to bet it’s a Big Mac with large fries and a super-sized sugary drink? What message does that send? Seems to me kind of cruel to bring a kid into carcinogen heaven and then sentence them to a diet of health food while Mommy and Daddy happily destroy their arteries. (Or maybe just Daddy; Mommy may have ordered a salad, still feeling societal pressure to fit into clothing designed for anorexic models.) 

In other words, if apple slices and milk are good, why not offer them for adults? (Answer: Because adults won’t order them. Children won’t either; their parents order it for them.) If it’s bad for kids to eat salty fries and sugary drinks, why is McDonald’s offering these bad things to adults?

You can hardly get through one day anymore without hearing about the “epidemic of childhood obesity.” But think about it: Is consuming a Big Mac, fries, and soft drink ultimately more dangerous to the health of a pudgy 10-year old child or to a 55-year old parent with elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels?

Yes, it’s true that children’s nutrition is of special importance because they are still growing. But nobody should be relying primarily on McDonald’s for their kids’ nutritional needs anyway. A fast-food place such as McDonald’s should be an occasional treat for families with kids, not a regular feature of their diet. In that event, fries and a Coke are not going to harm a child or make them fat. Of course, McDonald’s would prefer that you visit them every day, and that’s what they’re marketing. Just keep that in mind next time you see that kids’ menu.

6 Responses to “Childhood obesity through the lens of McDonald’s”

  1. i-love-things-that-sparkle said

    So true! Wonderful commentary. McDonalds would love for us to eat their breakfast, lunch AND dinner. And then later, their dessert! Yuck. My kids get fast food about once a month (and NOT McD’s)and then they get to order whatever the heck they want, because like you said, one meal out of 90 isn’t going to hurt them. Still, the “healthy” options are not so healthy — the caramel sauce may be low fat but there are at least 4 tablespoons of sugar in it. Same with the yogurt parfaits — full of sugar! I think the reason childhood obesity is so much worse is because of the innocence factor. A grown adult has the money, the car, and the knowledge to make decisions. A child does not know better, they will simply eat whatever tastes best and feels good. And their good headstart in life is stolen — people in their 20s are now having heart attacks! With all of this knowledge though, the epidemic grows worse. Thank you for giving it some sanity!

  2. geetha said

    I agree, the healthy menu options at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s are a bait and hook strategy being used by the fast food industry. Let’s grab the parents by making them think they are doing the right thing for their kids. The healthy menu options are a simple way for fast food corporations to step around all accountability issues related to their food. “People can’t blame us for America’s obesity issues, we sell healthy items too…”

    Please check out for more information regarding the issues associated with the fast food industry!

  3. Geetha – Yes, I agree it’s a bait and hook strategy. However, I think it’s off-base to blame McDonald’s and other restaurants for obesity, diabetes, etc. It’s not as if one can’t get the same fatty, greasy, salty food at a local diner if McDonald’s and its brethren ceased to exist tomorrow. McDonald’s didn’t cause people’s bad eating habits. I strongly believe that people need to take responsibility for their own lives and not cry, “Waaah! The evil corporations made me do it!”

    Nevertheless, I’m letting your link stand because your comment was substantive and relevant, and your web site – while I disagree with its goals – is itself an interesting topic for dicussion.

  4. i-love-things-that-sparkle said

    Yeah, that’s like blaming the crack dealer for the drug abusive! Obviously the dealer is not helping the problem but the druggie is the one who has to know and do better.

  5. […] […]

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