One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


Are Laws the Answer?

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Question of the weekThis weeks question isn’t as personal as most. I’ve been fascinated by San Francisco’s recent decision to restrict restaurants from giving away toys unless the meals are less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar.

I first heard of this ban on diet-blog a few days ago and my response was…

What about the parents responsibility?!? I’m all for teaching children good habits and believe me.. I’m NOT the biggest McDs fan (although we do eat there from time to time) but making a law is not the answer. We as consumers must expect more from our restaurants and we have a personal responsibility to make better choices for our kids.

My son gets happy meals with the fruit option and a juice all the time and he’s in a very healthy weight range. Everything in moderation.

To which another commenter responded…

That’s the problem, neither (many) parents nor corporations are taking responsibility. This law is designed to provide the safest option for children – I don’t see it as being any different than requiring a baby seat when a child is in the car.

An my response to his response…

It’s completely different unless you are going to start policing exactly WHAT parents are feeding their children at every meal. Car seats aren’t only required for trips over 10 miles.. they are required ALL the time.

In the picture used above the children are CLEARLY NOT eating a meal based for kids. This law would have no effect on them what so ever.

We have to change our culture not create more laws. Education, spreading a culture of health will go a lot further. Let’s build more side walks, fund more physical education and health courses in our schools, make healthy whole foods more accessible and affordable.

This new law is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound.

Honestly, when I first heard of the law I thought it was ludicrous. I had a few days to ponder this and I still feel the same way. Although I agree we have to demand healthier options at our restaurants forcing them to comply is skirting a fine line that could soon get out of control. Not to mention I find it quite interesting that we are trying to police companies when what we serve in our schools isn’t all that different.

Am I crazy?

Are laws the answer?

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There are 55 comments so far.

    Cynthia (It All Changes)

    November 11, 2010

    At some point parents need to parent. A happy meal once in a blue moon isn’t going to cause obesity. But if a child doesn’t have a healthy balanced diet at other times, limiting the happy meal isn’t going to have an effect.


    November 11, 2010

    I totally agree with you, Ronni. The ban is ludicrous. The government has no business telling a private business what it can serve. Do we really want that in America? The public will either buy the food or not, and NOT buying it will change what they serve. Money talks better than government.


    November 11, 2010

    I’m 100% with you on this one, Roni.

    While I’m not a parent, I don’t see how making this a “law” is going to help. If that’s the case, they need to focus on companies only bottling 1-8 0z. serving of soda, not 2 1/2 in a 20 oz. Restaurants should only be serving us ONE portion of Mashed Potatoes, not 3. And the list continues.

    We all have choices to make, sometimes they are hard – and how you parent is one of those.


    November 11, 2010

    No and no. I totally agree. Laws aren’t the answer and it just goes down a slippery slope of where our government can stick their noses into private citizen’s business. I also agree that the highly processed “food” that they feed kids in most schools isn’t any better. I work in my local schools and I NEVER eat school lunch unless I absolutely have nothing to bring in. I’ve been known to take some kind of crazy combinations to school if I had nothing else on hand and easy to grab. At the high school and middle school the kids and adults have a “salad bar” option, but elementary school students and teachers do not. Of course, the base of the salad is always iceberg lettuce and half of the items on the bar are prepared salads with a ton of mayo, but at least you have a choice. Even when I was in school, I lost weight (about 30 lbs in 4 months) by simply not eating the school lunches…my choice at lunch instead? 2 Chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk. Healthy? Nope, not at all…but apparently less calories than the average school lunch, sadly.


    November 11, 2010

    My first comment here…I’m a lurker…but I think your observations are spot on. It’s not the kids who are driving the car to the golden arches, it’s the parents. As a kid who grew up loving any form of potato (especially the fried variety) I would have been just as excited for the fries with or without the toy. It was my PARENTS that only let this fry lover have them as a treat. I think that education about healthy choices, portion sizes, and the content of the foods were are eating is valuable. Fast food is unfortunately a cheap and easy option and I doubt any kid is going to turn down a burger and fries given to them by their parents because a toy didn’t come with it. Roni, you said it best…”it’s like putting a band aid on a bullet wound.”


    November 11, 2010

    I’ll be the contrarian and say laws are fabulous. The thing about linking toys to foods, it becomes like policing what ads can go on Saturday morning during cartoons. I really do think that kids under a certain age should not be exposed to certain kinds of advertising, and junk food is high on that list. I don’t know how old the toys run, but it’s better to tell kids “you get a toy to play with or a junk food to eat, your choice”. Parenting is great, and that will not go away, but parents need help fighting peer pressure. (I’m reminded of the study that says that you can increase organ donation from 5% to 90% by making “yes” the default option. Make healthy the default option.)


    November 11, 2010

    I agree with RG. They’re not making it illegal to serve the food to the kids, just removing the connection to the toy. McDonalds has a history of marketing to children solely to create a client base who will keep coming back the rest of their lives, and I see no problem with breaking that small link in the chain by making the meals a little less appealing.


    November 11, 2010

    in a perfect world, laws are supposed to be a reflection of the desires of the people, so thanks roni for making this a discussion topic. what a great way to get people talking about it.

    an alternative solution, subsidize fresh fruits and veggies making them cheaper, or more convenient for parents. or if your prospective is “less government” then we could stop subsidies to certain foods that are likely to be sent off to become highly processed.


    November 11, 2010

    I agree, I am all for it the “it takes a village” concept for raising children but this goes too far! I also think we all need to be careful when judging parents and their children and food choices.

    I was recently at a party and one of the children was just eating bread. The woman sitting next to me would not leave her alone about only eating the bread. I finally turned to her and said the girl had some serious food allergies so her mom feeds her before events. It was annoying and the little one clearly didn’t know what to say.

    I guess I just feel like sometimes we go too far in judging others. It is a parent’s responsibility to provide a balanced diet, which can include an occasional happy meal!

    Hmm … I’ve been reading about the ban, too. I think it’s a terrible idea.

    Happy Meals, while not the healthiest items on the planet, are better than many options at a fast-food restaurant. Why, when I’m trying to stay OP and crave fast food, I sometimes buy one for myself.

    That being said, I agree that parents need to teach good habits — and society as a whole needs to shift the focus to healthier choices. If we aren’t buying the Super-sized value meal, demand will dry up and they’ll stop selling them.

    Am I the only one who remembers when today’s regular-sized drink was the “large”?


    November 11, 2010

    I’m going to have to agree with the RG and Julie. The city has told the company they can’t market in a certain way, not that the food is unavailable. It’s almost exactly the same strategy that was used for tobacco advertising. Fast food regularly consumed contributes to a premature death, so why get kids in the habit and set that as their “normal” by conditioning them from a young age to eat these foods by drawing them in with a toy.

    That all said, I certainly still agree that parents need to teach good habits to their children, but I can see where a law aimed at how products are marketed could be effective.


    November 11, 2010

    The problem with laws is that they are generally a reason for many food businesses to get around it. If beverages won’t contain sugar and fat, they will contain artificial sweeteners and chemicals with which the fat was removed from the food, not to mention artificial flavours to replace the fat as a flavour enhancer.

    For companies it would much more interesting to be rewarded for healthy choices.

    Apart from this I agree that educating families is still the best way because you have to make the choosers aware of their decisions. If parents didn’t buy those meals for their kids, they would not be produced.

    Shannon H.

    November 11, 2010

    I completely agree with you Roni! More laws are not the answer. What’s that phrase…”laws were meant to be broken.” People will find a way around it. Companies will find a way around it. Education has always been my preferred method to create change. If consumers demand different products (reflected by what they actually purchase or do not purchase at all), the companies will start producing different products.


    November 11, 2010

    RG – (we are on a roll today! ;)

    The law is about linking the toy BUT it’s giving specific nutrition requirement not affecting any advertising on TV at all.

    Now THAT I would be for. Limit commercials on TV during shows aimed at kids, regulate the CRAP out of that but don’t start telling restaurants what they HAVE to serve. There’s a big difference in my mind between having some legislation to prevent exposure to commercials and control how many calories/vegetables/etc. are in a meal.

    This is such a great topic and I think uncovers some of the underlying issues that can help us change our culture to a more healthy one.


    November 11, 2010

    I think that they should regulate all foods that way from resturants because even grownups don’t know how many calories are in a meal . they should regulate how many calories and grams of fat , that would solve alot. You cannot eat a big mac meal with like 1200 calories and then get your kid a piece of fruit. all resturants need to lower the calorie and fat count to realistic amount.


    November 11, 2010

    I really don’t see where making a law would do any good. What really chaps me is watching the news and the ” Mom in the
    McD’s interviews”. ” Oh, we eat here x-amount of times a week. HE insists on it”——-Hold it RIGHT there! The child dictates WHAT and WHERE we are doing for dinner? I know this is going to stir another pot, but what happened to parents being ‘in charge’? Fast food was NOT in the line-up, when I was growing up. WE didn’t even consider it a dinner option. It was a treat, reserved for when we were out shopping, or got the gift certificates for Christmas. Maybe Mom would take us on a snow day. We didn’t go simply for the sake of ” OOOO! Such and such toy is out!”
    I understand it’s a different time and Moms are at work, folks are busy. Great! SO WERE WE! Busy night? PB&J or another sandwich can go in the car too! It’s appalling to see the number of cars in the drive thru at dinner time. Maybe it’s time to visit some other issues. How many activities are the kids doing?
    Straying back to the issue at hand…I believe it it utimately up to the PARENTS to decide. Fast food CAN be a help, but I see it being used way too often as The Dinner. I love french fries! My son loves fries. But I also have a cool word to use that was used quite often when Iwas growing up—-“No.” (note the period following. No means No. Not up for debate, discussion, arguement, etc.) A law like that should NOT take the place of parents excercising their right to decide what’s best. You want to feed your kid Happy Meals every day? Fine. Go ahead.Then don’t be suprised when he/she develops health issues. And don’t even THINK of pointing the finger of blame elsewhere. No one forced your car into the drive thru.

    Julie - Big Girl Bombshell

    November 11, 2010

    Ok, as usual, I am bit of the odd woman out. I am for the ban. The ban is not about the food or taking away is about the media and advertising. It is about a message.

    The ban prohibits toy giveaways in fast-food children’s meals that have more than 640 milligrams of sodium, 600 calories or 35 percent of their calories from fat.

    To me, this is no different than a ban to use cartoon characters to advertise smoking. Or to put ratings on music not just movies.

    It is all to well know in the healthy realm that people to not know enough on their own and it is CONFUSING what the media and advertisers portray to us… AND the responsibility has to start somewhere.

    YES..there is parenting involved as many have claimed. I agree. WHOLE=Heartedly… BUT this is not a ban on food…it is a ban on combining marketing with healthy options…

    In my humble opinion of course…

    Michele @ Healthy Cultivations

    November 11, 2010

    It’s an interesting debate, and I’m torn on this one. I see both sides. The idea of the restrictions seem simple enough and a “heart in the right place” kind of act — don’t allow restaurants to provide incentives to purchase meals that aren’t healthy meals.

    When phrased that way, I can see it. However, I also see the other side — private businesses carrying on their business as they choose and catering to the demands of their customers. Rather than seeing it as a government responsibility to regulate, it’s more of a corporate social responsibility issue. However, businesses want to thrive… and promote what sells. So long as the people demand unhealthy foods, that’s what they’ll promote.

    Perhaps the governments should mandate more nutritional education and improve the school lunches before regulating toys in meals.


    November 11, 2010

    I don’t think the law will have any effect. If the toys are inciting the kids to want the meals and the parents are going to give the kids whatever they want, then those kids are screwed no matter what because their parents suck. When McDonald’s has a toy that really appeals to my kids, I will go and just buy them that toy. Did you know you can buy the happy meal toy without the happy meal? And this is a rare thing (but my son sooo loved How to Train your Dragon :) Parents need to parent.


    November 11, 2010

    SanFran has long been a health advocate. The city even set up a provision that states its intentions. You can read about it here.


    While some may or may not agree with what SanFran is doing, it has made its position on healthy food publically known. If a company or person does not like what the city does, it has the option to not operate or live there. Is that always realistic? Maybe not but at least the city is not acting behind a veil of secrecy.

    Just my humble opinion and no I do not live in California ;-)


    November 11, 2010

    Good point Big Tickles! I see what they are doing (the link you shared) as attempting to change the culture of their city and I think it’s great. And maybe change needs to happen in smaller markets for the culture to change nationwide. In that case they are pioneers but the law still scares me on so many levels. There’s a difference between persuading and requiring.


    November 11, 2010

    There are different ways to improve health behaviors, including targeting individuals and the environment. This law in my opinion uses the environment angle, helping to change the meals which are targeted to children. I am in support of this, because I think broad changes such as this one help people to make their own individual behavior changes.

    What other people eat does affect us all, because we all share the same air and water that is impacted by food production, and we all share in the health costs associated with nutrition issues.

    I certainly agree that parents can make their own choices about what to feed their kids – but I’d like to make it easier for them to make a healthier choice.


    November 11, 2010

    I’m hesitant to blame parents for their kids’ diet choices. Sure, if we lived in an ideal world where vegetables and fruits really were cheaper than carbs, where every parents had the time to make lunch, take the kids out for a snack after school, and make wholesome dinners every night, I’d say that the law is getting a bit too paternal.

    But we don’t live in that ideal world. We live in a world where food deserts are common, where kids are often left to make their own food choices because parents are tired and busy and are doing the best they can but they’ve gotta pay the rent in a week and McDs is faster and cheaper than a healthy meal, especially if you’re paid irregularly and/or poorly and can’t invest in bulk foods.

    Big Tickles’ point about changing culture is HUGE. If America’s going to get healthier, we have to change the way we think about food, and that starts with the marketing we’re exposed to from infancy. Teaching kids to order crappy food to get a cheap high is a terrible idea! We regulate cigarette and alcohol advertising, why not food?


    November 11, 2010

    I didn’t necessarily agree with the ban at first, but maybe it could be the first step into changing other types of this advertising specifically directed at children…It is manipultive and just plain Wrong… if I’m in the grocery store with my 3 year old, making healthy choices like steel cut oats, and right next to them are sugary, junky coloured cereals and foods like fruit roll ups with Shrek on the package…aaarrgghh..I never give in or buy them, but I shouldn’t even have to put my energy into explaining this to my child, who is just attracted to the bright coloured package and picture of a beloved character.. :)


    November 11, 2010

    I’m must be the really old one here. This law is crazy. I grew up when every kids cereal had a toy in the box and guess what my Mom didn’t buy it. It’s the responsibliliy of the parent to PARENT! We did however get to have a box for our birthday, that was our treat. Once we got older the treat was pop…are we going to outlaw pop now? I raised two girls and neither eat much fastfood or drink any pop, because they didn’t get it when they were younger…that was MY job to make sure they ate well not the governements job to police. I do believe in education, because it seems to me the problem is in ignorance of the parents.


    November 11, 2010

    We need to take personal responsibility. As MizFit said (loosely paraphrased) one woman’s Happy Meal is another woman’s Pop-Tart. So where do we draw the line? It’s a shame a Happy Meal is so much cheaper than a turkey sandwich on wheat at a deli. But it’s a fact; it is the cheaper option and often the quicker option. That said, I’m going to be a mom in about a month or so, and I don’t want my daughter to grow up fearing ANY food. I want her to learn to make good choices. Maybe tomorrow she’ll have the Happy Meal but it would be a rare occasion. While I wish there were cheaper, healthier options available at every dining establishment … regulation is not the solution. We need to own up to our own decisions and live with them. “A” Happy Meal never killed anyone. Eating a Happy Meal every day … well, that would be foolish. But at least let parents decide what is best for their child.


    November 11, 2010

    You are not crazy Roni. This is a silly law. Are we going to prohibit toys in cereal that has too much sugar? Parents should be able to make the rules for their kids without government forcing the manufacturers to change. Parents should be forcing the change by NOT buying the too sweet cereals or the meals with too many calories. Having a happy meal once in a while, as a treat, should be just that – a treat. Sure I wish restaurant food was better for me, but I know I can’t eat it every day. And I enjoy it when I do go out.

    On another note, I assume McDonalds gets money from the toy sponsor (the movie or whatever they are promoting). So, if the toy is banned, does the price of a Happy Meal skyrocket (or double)? Who will be complaining then?


    November 11, 2010

    I have to agree with you on this one. Making laws like this one is like saying that the public is not capable of making good decisons on their own. Laws are not the answer. Education is. I don’t think people are properly educated on health and nutrition and that needs to change.

    Skinny Sushi

    November 11, 2010

    In the end, I think it comes down to what kind of government we want. Do we want a government that keeps us as safe and healthy as possible, understanding that it will come at the expense of our individual free will, or do we want to maintain our right to choice as individuals, which means sacrificing institutional protection in favor of individual responsibility?

    For me, it’s a no-brainer. I want my own freedom of choice as much as possible, and if that means that a child somewhere might grow up terribly unhealthy because their parents choose to fill them full of constant fast food… well that’s sad, but in the end it’s not really my problem. My problem is the health and well being of myself and my children.

    Cynthia Z

    November 11, 2010

    Okay- I think people just need to step it up and actually parent. If you always let your kids eat a lot of unhealthy food- guess what? they’re going to be over weight. And pointing your finger at people who are providing the unhealthy food is not the solution. You are the parent. If your child bugs you to no end to have an unhealthy meal, just for a toy. Then yes- once again. You are the parent. You have a choice to make. You are in no way obligated to have the fries and soft drink with the meal, nor to even set foot in that establishment.


    November 11, 2010

    i love the conversation going on here! my two cents: the government cannot win. no matter what side of the aisle they’re on, our leaders really can’t satisfy the people. should everything our elected officials decide upon be put on a referendum ballot? the children in this country are facing a health crisis. if the government sat back and did nothing regarding the leading offenders (we wouldn’t tolerate the luring of children to peril in any other circumstances), they would be hung out to dry at the voting polls. i realize there are numerous elected officials who don’t really deserve the responsiblilty of policymaking, but by and large, i believe the majority are making educated, non-partisan decisions that they believe are in the best interest of their constituents specifically, and in other cases, the nation at-large. speaking for myself, our public education, here in pittsburgh, does provide an abundance of education regarding mental and physical health. yes, the school lunches do suck, but thats not a reason to try another tactic to thwart the health crisis our children are facing. two wrongs don’t make a right. why can’t we require more from multi-billion dollar corporations AND the school cafeteria?


    November 11, 2010

    Tara we total CAN require more from both but we need to demand it by where we spend our money (for the corporations at least) not create new laws that the corporations will simple skirt around anyway.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right but in my opinion new laws aren’t the answer.


    November 11, 2010

    I think instead of the toy ban, it should be law the the nutrional content is listed of every item. I don’t have any children right now, but I honestly have no idea how many calories a child should be eating a day. If that information was on the side of the packageing then I feel it would be more helpful.

    And honestly who goes to McDonald and expects a nice healthy “well balanced” meal? News flash – McDonalds serves fatty, salty, carbs heavy meals that if eaten everyday will make you fat and will probably give you a whole host of other health issues. People need to step it up and take responsiblitly for what they are eating and what they are feeding their children.

    And as for the cost, it cost me and my husband $12-$15 to eat at McDonalds. I know for a fact that it is cheaper for us to go to the grocery store and buy food then take it home and cook it dinner then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

    McDonalds is not cheaper than a healthy meal, it is justmore convenient.

    Maybe in a few years we will have to step on a scale and if our BMIs are low enough we will be “allowed” to purchase chicken McNuggets.


    November 11, 2010

    I think it is a good idea, limiting toys to healthy meals. There is a BIG problem in this country, and it is not the obesity epidemic – it is greed. While we all have “personal responsibility” for our choices – food and otherwise – this law places greater responsibility on those who profit from our decisions. The parents STILL have the option of choosing a higher-calorie meal for their child – only now, they have to think more about it because it won’t be wrapped up in the pretty “kids’ meal” package. This is a good law but, sadly, one that areas more prone to corporate greed are unlikely to mimic.


    November 11, 2010

    it is a VERY strong connection to the toy.. and i think its really sick to connect the food to the toy period.. my 5 year old ALWAYS wants the toy and we dont even have TV anymore.. she knows its there and she will ask for a happy meal.. but the only thing she will eat out of it? the apples. thats rite.. and usually the only time i allow those meals are when we are in a pinch for time.. so shes missed out on a meal and that upsets me everytime! even tho it was junk.. i wasted $4 so she could have apple slices and a toy.. and at the end of it all, no dinner!


    November 11, 2010

    I agree that parents need to be parents. This is just another example of catering to the lowest common denominator of our society. We need to accept more personal responsibility. It’s the same as needing a warning that the HOT COFFEE served at McDonald’s is HOT. Really? Don’t consume raw chicken. Hello! If we are going to ban kid’s meals, should we also have a scale when obese parents drive through? It’s out of control. Isn’t California bankrupt? Do we all pick up the tab for these ridiculous laws? Silly.


    November 11, 2010

    If the government wants to regulate what our children are eating then they need to stop focusing on fast food and start focusing on what our schools are feeding our children.
    I have a toddler and yes she has had a few french fries and a chicken nugget here and there, but if I put a chicken nugget and apple slices in front of her she’ll pick the apple. Parents have to teach there children to eat the right way. There is nothing wrong with getting a little treat every now and then.


    November 11, 2010

    Demanding better options from restaurants…YES!

    People being more accountable of what they eat…YES! YES!

    Tackling the school lunches and restructuring how much processed junk food is used…YES! YES! YES!

    The efforts of laws if they should be used at all should be directed at what schools serve your kids. They are in school 5 days a week, not out having happy meals!


    November 11, 2010

    Roni, we’ll agree to disagree, but I’m not sure if you missed that I was making an analogy. Toy = cartoons; food it comes with = ads for said food. My point is that kids want the toy and order the food that comes with it. An easy way for ff restaurants to get around this would be to give out the toy for free to any kid under 10 (like the restaurants that have coloring place mats). They’re not stopping you from ordering junk if you want it, but just that the junk comes with the toy.


    November 11, 2010

    WELL SAID RONI, WELL SAID. I agree with you whole heartedly. I watched Jaimie Oliver’s special on cafeterial lunches and kids just don’t want to eat healthy food. They want the chicken nuggets and fries. The issue goes to parents. Less government, please! Since when is it the government’s responsibility to teach my child how to eat? That’s my responsibility and instead of this rediculous law–they should make “real food” more affordable.


    November 11, 2010

    RG – We can totally agree to disagree but I just need to add one more point. I did catch your point that the toy is a type of advertising but what I don’t understand is exactly what you said…

    “An easy way for ff restaurants to get around this would be to give out the toy for free to any kid under 10 (like the restaurants that have coloring place mats). They’re not stopping you from ordering junk if you want it, but just that the junk comes with the toy.”

    If that’s the case then the law really is ludicrous. It’s not stopping the restaurants from using the advertising at all. It’s just preventing them from not pairing it with a specific option. Who cares.. as you say we will still order the junk anyway, the toy is still available, the kid still knows about it because they saw the commercial, the family will still go to McDs for dinner. What did the law accomplish?

    Now you have more regulation AND people are still ordering junk for their kids.

    There has to be another way that doesn’t involve the government mandating how many calories are in specific meals. At least I HOPE there is another way.

    Carla C

    November 11, 2010

    I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we educated parents about how bad the junk food really is. Before I started WW, I’d go to Burger King, get the chicken Whopper with king size fries and think it was healthier since it was chicken. I’d buy the kids a hamburger meal, since it was healthier than a cheeseburger. I had good intentions.

    Still, after losing weight and becoming a whole food fanatic, I still couldn’t tell you how much calories and fat each of my 4 children should have.

    Outlawing the toys isn’t the solution.


    November 11, 2010

    Roni – You’re talking about advertising for the toy, I’m talking about the toy is a way to hook someone into the junk. The toy might still get the kid in the store, but if it’s not tied to junk then you can buy whatever you want, from a salad to a smoothie to nothing at all. Trust me, they will not be giving out the fancy toy without the junk food they’re trying to hook the kids on. As someone else said, ff manufacturers are trying to lure in lifetime customers when they’re too young to discern nutrition.

    A few other thoughts:
    -I’d be all for similar laws about packaged cereal. At the very least, I should be able to buy the toy without the junky cereal attached to it.
    -No one’s saying this is instead of getting healthier school lunches. We can make healthier eating everywhere.
    -We’ve found that the problem exacerbates with the number of kids; the younger one has spent a lot more time in a car and being shuttled around because of the older one’s lessons; he’s choosing to go for the drive instead of staying home, and the end result is more unforeseen hunger.

    Leaving Fatville

    November 11, 2010

    I actually wrote a post about this yesterday, based on the whole right vs wrong of McD’s Happy Meals. I’m strictly the middle of the road. I don’t think McD’s meals are evil. They’re fine… in moderation. My kid eats the Happy Meals once or twice a month, but he gets no cheese, apples and milk or juice. I don’t eat there, mainly because I know it’s a food trigger for me and I can’t trust my choices.

    I think we need to go back to educating people on nutrition. That was clearly absent when I was in school, and I’m sure it’s not fairing any better 15 years later. We should be teaching people to cook for themselves, and what constitutes a reasonable, healthy meal. Most people eat McD’s because they don’t know from anything else. Those calories on the boxes don’t mean anything to them because it’s not been put in context of what they SHOULD be eating. That’s where it needs to change, not laws… education. (And free cooking classes with REAL ingredients. Not canned junk like some of the supermarket “recipes.”)


    November 11, 2010

    when you create laws for nonsense you create crime. I agree this situation is a call for education not legal interference.


    November 11, 2010

    also I think the toys are junk so when we get a happy meal I always ask them not to include them. Clearly this law will not stop people from eating at the big M’s


    November 11, 2010

    I just want to point out that while perhaps not perfect, it is the creation of laws that sometimes spurs the “changing of culture” that you call for. Requiring, seatbelts being a perfect example. Not allowing smoking in public places, as another. These were laws inacted against much protest, but definitely changed the ways many of us behave and think. And created safer and healthier communities.
    Making discrimination based on religion, race and sexual orientation illegal led to a greater cultural shift than might have been possible otherwise.
    I’m not equating these issues with Happy Meals exactly…but I agree that a culture change is needed and this may be one of the paths to get there.


    November 11, 2010

    I totally agree with you!! At what point are we responsible for our own lives?? The more rules/laws the more control the government has, ridiculous!


    November 11, 2010

    Erin – SO funny that you brought that up. It’s exactly what I mentioned to the husband at lunch when we were discussing it. Although I think laws do spur change I wonder if it’s the discourse that happens because of the law more than the law itself? KWIM? I didn’t start wearing my seatbelt because I’d get fined BUT the law brought media attention, education and discussion about the safety of seatbelt. Maybe it’s a chicken egg problem, who knows but we can’t turn to laws for every thing or our personal freedoms will be chipped away.

    Although I wear my seatbelt I don’t think it should be a law and although I’m not a smoker I think restaurants should have smoking sections if they choose. It’s my choice NOT to frequent them.

    All my opinion of course but I totally agree, laws have the ability to ignite change.

    UGH! It’s such an issue!


    November 11, 2010

    I agree. I work at a high school. Sometimes a veggie or fruit is not even put on the students’ plates. I wonder how they can count ketchup as a vegetable. ….or french fries. Once for lunch the meal consisted of: breaded chicken patty, mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll, and a cookie. That was it. All white starch (with a small amount of protein). And we wonder why our children have a hard time paying attention in school.


    November 12, 2010

    No, no, no. I right there with you, 100% against the ban. As a parent, it is my choice what to feed my kids and there’s just too much of a slippery slope in legislating food choices. Fully disclose all ingredients and let the consumer choose from there. If the parents don’t want a toy in the meal they can opt out of it themselves, but it is not for San Francisco to compel businesses one way or the other on this particular issue.

    As for me, I take my kids for happy meals maybe four times a year? Usually after things like dr’s appointments. Yes, they certainly enjoy the toy, that is part of why the meal is a rare and special treat. That’s my choice, not anyone else’s. Parents need to parent, not be railroaded by the nanny state into what they deem good choices to be.

    However well intentioned, this law only puts more regulations on businesses and less onus on the accountability of the parent. This is two bad things.

    Mary Nell

    November 12, 2010

    I just can’t say that I’m for a LAW that decides this. Why do we need more government intervention? If consumers weren’t buying it, then we wouldn’t have the problem. In America, we complain about portions, but then when a local place opens that serves correct portion sizes, I hear complaints about “not getting enough food for your money.” Parents have to be parents and explain media to their children and tell them NO. People have to start making healthier choices so that businesses want to provide them. Look at places such as Applebees that partner with Weight Watchers and Chick-fil-a that offer fruit with their kid’s meals…when consumers start demanding it, there will be a change.

    Mary Nell

    November 12, 2010

    Let me just mention while we are on the school lunch issue–I work in a school. When we do serve vegetables, the kids head to the vending machines (even for a pack of crackers) or eat something else. They will eat some of the fruits sometimes. It is really another thing that has to change in the culture. I’m already seeing it with my daughter (a 3 year old who always eats everything at home). I make her lunch and it will come home with the healthy items in there and her saying, “I’m hungry.” I only pack what she has eaten at home so I don’t really understand it unless the other kids aren’t eating theirs as well. So, we talk about what she will do next time and how she will try to eat all the food mommy sends so she won’t be hungry.

    Jenn (GH)

    November 13, 2010

    GREAT post Roni. I totally agree with you. Every time I hear about a new law or law proposal regarding food I cringe. I don’t believe it’s the governments job to say what food we can or cannot put into our bodies. This is a much bigger issue than the Happy Meal. Where does it stop? Whose makes up the “nutritional rules” about what is “healthy” and “unhealthy”? I happen to believe (along with huge numbers of others) that eggs are very very healthy. What if the government decided eggs were “unhealthy” because of the “cholesterol”? Or red meat? Which I also believe is healthy. They are already trying to wipe out raw milk despite numerous studies that it is actually healthier than pasteurized milk. This comes down to personal freedoms and responsibility. It’s unfortunate that there are parents who will take their kids to McDonald’s every day. However I don’t think laws are the answer.

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” – Thomas Jefferson. I consider Happy Meal toys simply an inconvenience.

    On the bright side, I am glad that this was a city law and not a federal law.


    November 17, 2010

    I don’t mind this law, but I’m an SF resident and we’re a little weird anyway. All the law does is change the incentive for the happy meal- the mcD marketers are consciously attempting to pair bad McD food with a high-value reward for a kid- a toy. So put the toy with the good food instead. If kid and parent still want cheeseburger and fries, the law doesn’t say: No serving burger/fries to kids under 5. THAT would be instrusive. The law helps out by not allowing marketers to pair toys with bad food, thus pushing the choice toward bad food even when healthier options are available. You still can eat whatever you choose.