Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

“Happy Meals”: The Unhappy Truth

by | May 1, 2013

Most fast-food places trick children into eating unhealthy foods by enticing them with attractive packaging. They even include popular toys in the package to make these unwhole offerings irresistible. Parents and grandparents often treat the children to a “happy meal” unaware of how they are hurting the health of their loved ones in the long run.

Case in point: Recently a long term patient of mine came into the office for a checkup. She brought along her five-year-old adorable grandson who she was babysitting that day.

The boy was happily playing with his toy while I updated his grandmother’s medical history, so I asked him about it.

“Where did find this toy?”

“Granma got this for me,” he answered in such a cute voice. “Look, it came with my lunch.”

He then proudly shows me the multi-colored paper lunch box from one of the most well-known fast-food franchises.  I asked to see what else had come with his lunch. He had barely touched his food, so most of it was still there:  salty, deep-fried French fries and a salty, sugary dessert with a soda pop on the side. Only the burger was missing. What an unhealthy line up, chock full of empty calories! No wonder one three children in America are already overweight.

The Centers for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) confirms that the kids’ meals offered by most franchises are among most unhealthy choices you can buy. Their findings in a recent report are absolutely shocking:

We assessed the nutritional quality of all possible children’s meal combinations against a set of standards developed by a panel of nutrition and health experts, and against the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Kids LiveWell standards.  Of the 3,498 meal combinations, 97% do not meet the expert nutrition standards for children’s meals and 91% do not meet the NRA's Kids LiveWell standards. Nineteen of the restaurant chains offering children’s meals (56%) do not have even one meal that meets the expert nutrition standards and nine chains (26%) do not have one meal that meets the Kids LiveWell standards.”

Parents and grandparents, it is in your hand to do something about this. You want your children to grow healthy and have a disease-free, long life. Don’t fall for these marketing gimmicks and hurt the future health of your loved ones. Stay away from the fast food chains until they change their tune and offer healthy kids meals. And most especially, don’t be pressured into buying these seriously unhappy and unhealthy “happy meals”.

The CSPI reports that since 2008 the overall percentage of meals that met the nutrition standards increased from 1% to just to 3% in 2012. Clearly the industry is in no hurry to make a significant, positive change in their meals offerings for kids.  As parents and grandparents, you can send a strong message to these giant fast food franchises—just say no to happy meals.



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