Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death to the Happy Meal?

As the mother of a Kindergartner, I was horrified this year when Darling's school requested that no candy or unhealthy snacks be sent to share with the other kids at the Halloween party.

No. Halloween. Candy.

Trust me when I say it was a rather glum celebration.

Same situation for Christmas and Valentine's Day. Plus, there was a note sent home requesting that parents not put "dessert unless it was fresh fruit" in their child's lunches.

I'm very much in favor of teaching children healthy eating habits, but I also believe in "everything in moderation" (it took Darling until Thanksgiving to finish off all of her Trick or Treat candy...only 2 pieces per night).

I was taken aback when I read about the banning of toys in Happy Meals in California.

I guess cheap, plastic toys make kids fat...

I firmly believe in teaching children that healthy eating habits are one of the important life skills they need to know. Healthy eating in childhood tends to lead to healthy eating as an adult. Darling enjoys going to the grocery store and helping choose what's going in her lunch that week...the choice of apple sauce over yogurt is thrilling for a 5 yr old, I guess. But, it's also important to teach them that's it's ok to splurge once in awhile (we let Darling go to McDonalds about twice a month as a treat/convenience for us).

I don't think taking the toy/joy out of the McDonalds experience is really going to reduce the fat/sodium content a child consumes. Darling's standard Happy Meal is a 4 piece Chicken McNugget meal with 2% milk and apple slices (she doesn't like the caramel dipping sauce). This isn't a horrible meal, but by no means would I call it exceedingly healthy. I know Darling enjoys playing in the Playland more than she really cares about the toy. It's more about the treat of eating out.

I think many parents, but not apparently enough for the state of California, try to teach their kids that McDonalds (and the toy) are a once-in-awhile treat. I think this is a bass-akwards way of trying to "keep kids healthy." Why not put stricter laws into effect for the sodium/fat content of kiddie meals? Why not offer Chicken McNuggets without the breading? Or a grilled chicken kid's sandwich? Or a kiddie sized salad? Change the food, not the fun...