Heart Health

Happy Meals vs. Healthy Meals

November 4, 2010
CHI Health

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Happy Meals vs. Healthy Meals

In a little more than a year, the children of San Francisco may be saying so-long to the McDonald’s Happy Meals you and I enjoyed in our youth. The city’s Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (on a veto-proof vote) to pass a law that prohibits restaurants from giving away free toys with unhealthy kids’ meals.

So … what does the Board consider healthy?

If McDonalds wants to continue its practice of packaging Hot Wheels with hamburgers, then the meal will have to be less than 600 calories (its currently 640 calories for a Cheeseburger Happy Meal with French fries and a Sprite). Any meal with a toy must also contain fruits and vegetables AND include a drink without excessive fat or sugar.

So … what do you think about this law? Is it a good idea that merely helps promote the well-being of America’s children? Or do you think the Board is overstepping its bounds?

10 Comments
  1. Bonnie

    I think this is a very bad idea. We are all responsible for our actions. We all know that fast food is not healthy. It is up to the parents to teach their children self control. I have a real problem with the government making my decisions. The nutritional information is there, it is up to the individual to make their own decisions and to teach their children to make healthy choices.

  2. Gary

    I don't think the issue is the happy meal...if they can't get the meal at McDonalds they can have an equally "nutritious" meal at burger king, taco bell etc... The issue in my mind is government involvemnet in how companies can market...in this case to kids...Target marketing to kids is nothing new...I still remember going to the grocerary store as a kid, and picking the cerreal that had the coolest toy. Government pulling the plug on certain target marketing to kids is nothing new either...remember the joe camal spots? I don't think banning the toys from the meals will accomplish their objective. We had them growing up..we ate happy meals and our generation was signifacntly less obese then current generation...many other factors involved

  3. Jessie

    I have a feeling this isn't going to change much. The meals have to be 600 calories or less? If a 10-year-old eats three meals a day of 600 calories each, they're over-eating by quite a bit (unless they are regularly very active, which isn't really the case with most kids anymore). I realize that they aren't suggesting that kids eat three of these "happy" meals per day, but if they're only decreasing the caloric content by 40 calories then who's to say it'll make any difference in the big picture anyway? It's great that the government is trying to help parents out by making choices healthier but lets face it, if the kid wants fries and the parents are willing to get the fries, then the kid is going to get fries. Who knows? Maybe now parents will start ordering the new "healthy" kid meals AND a side of fries. Bonnie is right, when it comes down to it, parents and kids alike need to learn how to make their own decisions and the government trying to make those decisions for them probably won't work. Putting nutrition info on the labels was a great idea. Parents just need to take responsibility for their kids' dining decisions.

  4. Joanna Sutter

    Is it a perfect solution? No. But, I think the Board has great intentions and I applaud them for their initiative and for keeping the subject of childhood obesity moving in a healthy direction.

  5. Tim

    What an interesting approach to a healthy tomorrow! Do I agree with it? No. Am I completely against the (supposed intentions behind it)? Well, no. To address the previous posters: Bonnie, yes, we are all responsible for our own actions, I don't know if ALL of us know fast food is not healthy, and while I agree that parents SHOULD teach their children self-control, I don't necessarily believe it will happen. The problem is, parents are not teaching their kids now. They're opting to go for easy choices, because...well, everyone is busy. There's more to it, sure, but laziness plays a large factor into childhood (and adulthood) obesity. It's much easier to go through a drive-thru than research healthy options, let alone COOK those healthy options. So, Bonnie, I have to say that I agree that we SHOULD be doing the things you mentioned, but it's not happening. Parents shouldn't hit their kids, they shouldn't let their kids smoke pot on youtube, they shouldn't dress their kids in matching outfits (unless they're twins, but that still creeps me out), but they DO. By stating what should be done, we're not solving anything. While I agree with your ideas to an extent, I don't feel that enough is being done to make those ideas more realistic. Governmental interference may be necessary. On the note of the government getting too involved: I know that many people think the government is too involved in our day-to-day lives and I think there is a danger associated with such practices. However, have we gone so far in letting our children overdo it that someone HAS to step in and turn thinks back in a healthy direction? Sadly, we might have. If the government doesn't step in sometimes--and, anymore, lots of times--who WILL protect the kids? Worse yet, who will protect us, the adults who SHOULD know better? And again, I have to say that I'm not completely sold on the idea of cutting out happy meals (along with other extreme bans and the like). For one, we're in a capitalistic society. If people choose to spend their money on happy meals, they should be allowed to do just that. It gets tricky with children, as they are at the mercy of their parents. But, accountability needs to be more of a focus. Rather than hurting businesses (and I'm not saying McDonalds is hurting at this point, but on a broader level, we are approaching dangerous territory if we start to let the government decide which products a retailer can provide...though, that does happen already--look at bars), maybe we need to improve education on being responsible for one's actions. Maybe we need incentive programs to help parents curb their spending/eating habits. Maybe we need to reconsider the measurements of child abuse and neglect--if a child is eating to the point of obesity, should parents be held accountable and be forced to suffer consequences? Of course, I don't know a right answer. Cutting out happy meals bothers me on one level. When I heard about people suing McDonalds because they gained weight, I was enraged. That person had a choice and they made that choice; no restaurant should be blamed for the lack of will power--or exercise--of a consumer. On the other hand, we need to give our childen the best shot possible at having healthy, happy lives. While slippery slopes are logical fallacies, does acceptance of a happy meal ban open the door for more governmental control? Maybe, though, I'm just nostalgic. Maybe I'm remembering the days when I excitedly opened up my happy meals to find the toy of the month. If we take that from children, what will the consequences be?

  6. Bob

    Anyone who thinks that giving anyone the authority to choose what is safe or healthy or moral for you or your children needs to study some history. Last time I looked we live in a free country. Every time we let someone take away even one of our smallest freedoms we lose a part of who we are and what we stand for as a country. Historically the Romans chose what was best for the Christians, the white man chose what was best for the indians, the Nazi's chose what was best for the Jews. Wake the hell up America where does it end.

  7. Jenny

    Amen to what Rebecca stated!

  8. Rebecca

    Dear Government, The idea that we have the government telling us what we can and can't do (or can and can't eat) sickens me. What happened to the basic principles of freedom? This is NOT it. Plus, this is just an insult. And by the way, it's nice to know the government thinks we're too stupid to make our own decisions! If parents want to stuff their kids full of happy meals then that's their business. Stay out of MY life and MY pocketbook. Thank you, A Concerned Citizen that Loves her Freedom!

  9. Michelle

    What?? Gov't controlled happy meals? What's next, gov't controlled Health Care?? Oh wait....

  10. Steph

    You guys seriously think not letting McDonalds put toys in a happy meal is taking away our freedom? I think this country has gotten to ridiculous... I'm so offended... that's infringing on my rights... etc. Children are obese, as sad as that is. I also look back with a smile remembering the Happy Meals of my youth. Difference is I got to indulge maybe once a month at most. Kids today are getting this stuff multiple nights a week... so if we can make the meals a little healthier so be it. It's for the kids right? I just wish people would stop taking things so personally. Taking the toy out of the box is not a personal slam at you intending to stomp all over your freedoms. It is taking a step to help the children in our country because other programs (like extra PE time at school) aren't working because parents shove a cheeseburger at their kid at 7 p.m. because its too late to cook. I'm sorry if I offend anyone and don't intend this to sound rude, but again please don't take it personally.

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