Would banning fast food toys reduce childhood obesity?

A county in California is trying to help curb childhood obesity by banning restaurants from giving away toys with high-calorie meals.

From the AP story:

“The ordinance is largely symbolic as it would only cover unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, meaning only about a dozen fast-food outlets and several other family-owned restaurants would be affected.”

“But its chief sponsor says it’s still important because it paves the way for other areas to act, may spur action by fast-food chains to offer healthier choices and can help parents by taking away a child’s incentive for wanting less healthy food.”

“This ordinance does not attack toys. Obviously, toys, in and of themselves, do not make children obese,” said county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who pushed for the ban. “But it is unfair to parents and children to use toys to capture the tastes of children when they are young to get them hooked on eating high-sugar, high-fat foods early in life.”

“The ban, which faces a final vote next month, would prohibit restaurants from giving away an incentive item, like a toy, with a meal that contains more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of sodium and excessive amounts of fat and sugars….”

“A 2008 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that 10 out of 12 meals that came with toys exceeded the recommended caloric limits for children, Yeager said.”

“The California Restaurant Association lobbied against the ordinance saying it was misguided and another example of government overreaching. The organization placed ads in local newspapers against the ordinance and conducted a poll they said showed that an overwhelmingly number of county residents opposed such a measure.”

My kids absolutely ask to go to fast food restaurants seeking specific toys. They wanted all the Alvin and Chipmunk characters and some Lego toys in the past. I didn’t take them back to get the toys they wanted but it is hard to resist the harping.

My other problem with the toys in the meals, besides enticing the kids to like foods that are bad for them, is they are just junk that clutters the house. Lots of friends donate those types of toys to their classroom treasure boxes or AR prize store.

I consistently like the Chick-Fil-A toys better than other restaurants. I did go back two times to Chick-Fil-A when they were giving away the Wonder Why book series to get them for Walsh. He loved those books and in my mind their nuggets seem more healthy than other places.

So what do you think? Would banning the toys help keep the kids from getting hooked on bad fast food? (Then again the adults don’t get any toys and they still eat there!!) Should they get a toy if they ordered the grilled chicken nuggets or a yogurt parfait? Or should it not be the responsibility of the market place but of the parent to control how much fast food their child eats?

98 comments Add your comment

shaggy

April 28th, 2010
6:05 pm

Purely political motives here.
If you really want to do something about child obesity, just be a parent and make sure they are eating right. Pretty simple, right? But, doing that won’t make the headlines and show mindless voters that you, the elected moron, is doing something to fight this evil scourge, would it?

The American way

April 28th, 2010
6:56 pm

Blame everyone but yourself for your problems. Take away the toys and the fast food restaurants will find another way to get kids to want their food. Stop trying to legislate life. If the children grow up obese and die at an early age, that’s one less on this planet.

mombiealert

April 28th, 2010
7:19 pm

Yea, if you can seem to parent, look for the government to legislate a childhood for your kids, pathetic!

V for Vendetta

April 28th, 2010
7:27 pm

I’m so sick of hearing the word “ban.” Over on Get Schooled, we’re discussing the idea of banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

Remember when parents parented and the government . . . did whatever it is they do. If there is anything that is a better demonstration of America’s current lack of self accountability and responsibility than obesity, I have yet to see it.

JATL

April 28th, 2010
8:09 pm

This whole topic -as I have stated before here -makes my head feel like exploding! Thanks Big Brother for making me explain to my child that he won’t ever receive the toy being advertised in the Happy Meal or the Chick-fil-A meal or whatever. I know, I know -it’s just a bunch of morons in one California county, but it’s wrong on so many levels. First, the government doesn’t need to be fooling with this. Second, it’s not the Happy Meal that’s making your kids fat -it’s all the other junk you constantly let them eat and the fact that you don’t have them doing any activity -from playing outside or going to active places or being involved with sports of some type. We can yell and scream about school food, fast food and advertising as much as we want, but it all existed when I was growing up, and we weren’t a bunch of little tubbies! We EXERCISED AND PLAYED OUTSIDE! Recess and mandatory P.E. -plus parents getting kids off of their butts. That’s where the problem lies.

Greg

April 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

Two words: Personal responsibility.
The emphasis is on “personal”.

Rod

April 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

How about letting parents be parents. If you don’t want your child to eat that food – then be the parent and say “no.”

To many parents want to place responsibility on other people. If you don’t want to take care of a child the proper way, then STOP HAVING THEM.

The toys aren’t the problem. Parents who couldn’t care less about what goes in their child’s mouth are the problem.

Greg

April 28th, 2010
9:56 pm

Are we soon going to see the Happy Meal defense?
The Happy Meal made me do it?

RJ

April 28th, 2010
10:27 pm

What else can we get the government to decide for us? Kids are obese because their parents don’t teach them how to eat properly. Most of the time the parents are obese as well. The government should not be deciding what a business sells unless it is unlawful. At what time will parents be held responsbile for their kids eating habits, behavior, education, etc? This is an insane move. Kids can’t buy their own fast food. Let’s start holding parents accountable.

HB

April 28th, 2010
11:35 pm

If truly healthy restaurants offered toys and junk restaurants didn’t, I suspect they’d still barely make a dent in McD’s sales. That said, if parents really want the toys gone and petition the companies for it, I bet they could convince the industry to drop the toys on their own and then put out all sorts of press releases about how much they care about the health of families and stress moderation and choosing apples instead of fries in kids’ meals, etc (fast food restaurants are already moving this way — doesn’t Ronald wear a track suit now?). Like cereal companies deciding on their own to cut commercials for extra sugary cerals aimed kids and adding whole grains to Fruit Loops. Or beer companies runnings ads on the importance of designated drivers.

JATL

April 29th, 2010
12:16 am

If the government is going to force fast food restaurants to remove ANYTHING, it should be this disgusting mess! But NO -the government is all for pink slime. DISGUSTING:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html

Ken Leebow

April 29th, 2010
5:55 am

By itself, no. However, a pattern is emerging that might have a positive impact on reducing obesity in America. Recently, there has been a push to reduce sugar and salt in processed foods, change the food that is being served to kids in school, and place nutritional information on our menus.

The above is addressing the root cause of the problem: Our food environment. Dr. David Katz’s metaphor … we’re like a Polar Bear in the Sahara Desert. We’ve been placed into an environment that humans were never intended to be.

These are just a few steps to get us back to our natural environment.

Ken Leebow
http://www.FeedYourHeadDiet.com

FCM

April 29th, 2010
6:50 am

@ V do you remember when Mrs Gore insisted on lables on records? That was the start of this mess!

As a parent I have taken a few knocks from my own parents: I let my kids watch Twilight and New Moon. My youngest (7 @ time) loves the fight scenes and thinks Jacob is cure. My oldest (9 @ time) likes the romance of the whole thing. Sure many parents would not want to let their kids see that but some won’t let them read Harry Potter either (mine can of course).

This legislation–lest I stray from topic–is just the next attempt to control society. When will we say enough? The last I read this country was supposed to be by, for, and of the people (wholistic) not the elected few who have decided they are supposed to “parent” us all.

We must be careful–not paranoid, careful. 2 words: Animal Farm.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
7:07 am

We ate chocolate donuts, hot dogs, chips and drank little bottles of coke when the moms brought lunch to our school in the 1960’s. TRUE! We did not have a lunch room and this happened once per month.

@ FCM….it does seem government is trying to get its’ hand in everything…who voted for this?

Jeff

April 29th, 2010
7:30 am

Wow FCM. I’m impressed with the political memory. I remember tipper on Donahue (?) with Ice-T talking about the record label issue.

My guess is that this “fix” will have as much success as the record labelling, the V-chip, movie ratings, etc. They’ll take the money claiming to fix something, not fix it, then come back and want more money to fix it. In the real world, that’s called fraud and breach of contract.

shaggy

April 29th, 2010
7:42 am

FCM – Libertarian, right? Me too. I couldn’t care less about someone poking a happy meal down their fat kid’s throat, as long as they leave me to educate my own about what fat kid’s life will be like as a result of happy meal inhalation. That little insight is much more effective motivation than banning practically anything.
This “news” from Cali is just sensational journalism, meant for the masses. The politcos behind this are just your standard issue reptilian politicians from the RepuDemblican party. The article author is just a talking head.

MomsRule

April 29th, 2010
7:42 am

Banning toys is not the answer. Parents stepping up and being parents is the answer. People taking responsibility for themself is the answer. It is not McDonald’s fault people/children are fat. Are they forcing you to super size? Stop purchasing the “junk” and eventually businesses will stop producing it.

I hate seeing babies/young children being given candy to keep them quiet or sipping soda through a straw. Why are parents giving this junk to their kids? The parents say, “but she likes it!” Well, duh! But guess what, “if you hadn’t given her that Grape Crush she wouldn’t know what it is!”

I also don’t buy the excuse “they bug me till I buy it for them.” So what? No means no. Teach them young.

When my youngest started eating solids I would take fresh raspberries, etc to daycare for his lunch. I had several parents comment, “how do you get him to eat that?” while their child was eating processed junk. My reply was always a polite, “its all he knows, they will eat what you give them.”

My kids do get “junk” too but in moderation and they didn’t get it before they were provided the opportunity to develop an appreciation for healthier choices (fruits, veggies).

G.R.I.T.S.

April 29th, 2010
7:43 am

i remember when everyone was all stirred up about the supposed Y2K mess…one of my family members (sighs) said, ‘we arent doing anything to prepare im sure the government is going to make sure everyone is ok’ ! that is the mentality of most people today…let the government tell us what to do..they wont lead us astray…i am appalled at anyone who thinks this way…but this is the same mentality….i dont know the solution, but im sure if a kid wants a happy meal they will get it toy or no toy…i can imagine parents saying ‘ok little johnny we will get a happy meal and then go to the dollar store for a toy since they wont give you one with your meal’. it all boils down to parents need to parent and they dont…i dont want the government telling me what my kid can eat, read, watch or play…i can make those decisions myself.

shaggy

April 29th, 2010
7:50 am

Oh, Ken Leebow – You are a moron, and your metaphor is like comparing apples and oranges. Humans weren’t “meant” to travel in space or to the bottom of the ocean, yet we do it anyway.
As for the “push” for sugar/sodium regulations in processed foods that has been underway for some time and is being driven by something that I am sure is alien to you. Free enterprise and the demand for these healthier products by the consumer. There is no need to legislate; the dollar will decide the issue.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
7:56 am

@ momsrule HOORAH FOR YOU….I had students who ate cherry tomatoes ( like candy) and drank prune juice mixed with 7 up ( yuck) in their thermos. Yes, our kids eat what they are used to and used to getting, by whining and winning the battle with their parents.

I see this and you do too ( as do thousands of teachers) but some ( on this blog) are quick to criticize me and state ( to me):

“Give other moms a break. They’re doing what they can, the best way they can.”

Guess that includes letting your kids eat/drink whatever they want. Some simply do not see as others do.

Jeff

April 29th, 2010
8:01 am

Preach it motherjane.

cld

April 29th, 2010
8:04 am

@MomsRule, I’m with you! I sent all my son’s foods to daycare until he turned one, and I still send his breakfast and milk. He gets two lunches a week of daycare food, and I just try to offset when he’s home. Now that fruit is in season, he’s been demanding fresh pineapple, strawberries and cantaloupe. Some nights, he eats three helpings of fresh-cut fruit at dinner, and doesn’t touch his chicken or pasta. One night, I made roasted cauliflower (with just a drizzle of olive oil for flavor) and he inhaled it like it was candy. He’s a kid after my own heart . . .

cld

April 29th, 2010
8:08 am

I also remember, several years ago, a cousin’s daughter (toddler at the time – she was probably a year old) had a cold. They (the parents and grandparents) gave her sweet tea in her sippy cup, to treat the cold. ??? I was flabbergasted (then again, I didn’t grow up in the South and I don’t like cold tea). From then on, the girl LOVED sweet tea and they had a time getting her to cut back on it.

Now that I’m a parent, I still don’t understand why they did that?? I have given my son (diluted) juice when he has a cold, to get him extra vitamin C and help his fluid intake. But really, sweet tea???

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
8:15 am

Thanks Jeff…I cannot figure out how some here do not realize that more and more parents are not winning the battle… but losing it. I have made my share of mistakes too. But we CAN learn from other’s expertise …especially on this blog. Maybe some today would say, “hey if momsrule can get her kids to eat healthy fruits…I can too…” Good for them! It helps to hear other’s success stories.

Kathy

April 29th, 2010
8:16 am

When Little E was an infant I read a parenting book by a woman called “The Baby Whisperer”. One of her mottos was “Start as you mean to go.” For example: If you don’t want your child in the bed with you when they are 10, do not start by letting them in the bed when they are a baby. If you don’t want your child eating junk, then don’t start giving them junk when they are young.

I do not want my child drinking soda, so it has never been given to her. I want her to love a variety of fruits and vegetables, so that is how we started when she was young. I can say no to my child when she is whining and complaining for something because I AM THE GROWN UP!!! I don’t have guilt so I don’t give in. Yes, we let her have McDs and Chick fil A, but not everyday! It is a treat and that how we want it to be.

So YES…..it should be my decision as a smart parent to decide what my child eats.

Panda8

April 29th, 2010
8:18 am

I doubt this will change anything. They’ll simply offer the toys to children customers and not “with” the happy meals. It’ll go on the side of the tray instead of in the box, and corporate won’t even take notice.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
8:40 am

@ cld…I have seen 2 year olds with COKE in their bottle. EEEKKK!!!

JJ

April 29th, 2010
8:42 am

No it won’t stop the obesity. Parents are lazy and a crappy drive through fast food meal is MUCH easier than actuallly cooking a healthy meal at home. You know, they’re so over-scheduled they just don’t have time to cook.

Just this past weekend, I was hanging out with the neighbors. There were three little (FAT) kids visiting one of my neighbors, and we were all outside. I tried to get the kids to climb a tree in the yard. At 50 years old I was able to climb up that tree, but the 7 year old FAT boy couldn’t get up to the first level of the tree. I even got out of the tree, and helped him, by pushing him from behind so he could get some leverage. He ended up slipping, and sliding down the tree, about 2 feet. Tore the first layer of skin up on his calf (no blood, just scratches), and proceeded to cry hysterically for 20 minutes. So sad that a healthy 50 year old woman did better than a 7 year old boy…….

mom2alex&max

April 29th, 2010
8:44 am

Oh for the LOVE OF PETE!!!! First of all, it’s not the fast food mainly. It’s lack of physical activity! And the govt can do something about that: it’s called recess, try expanding on THAT instead of stupid CRCT tests.

Second of all, I am perfectly capable of telling my children “no, we cannot eat McD’s” without the govt “helping” me.

cld

April 29th, 2010
8:46 am

@ MJG, I’ve seen some of them, and they make me cringe! I live in fear that a well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) friend or relative will introduce our toddler to soda or sweet tea (or even lemonade – any drink with no nutritional value is a bad idea at that age) when I’m not around . . . or lollipops – don’t get me started on lollipops.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 29th, 2010
8:56 am

there’s a new reader-submitted blog popping up at 10 a.m. this topic posted around 7 last night despite the funky time stamp so i wanted to give it a little bit of morning time.

TechMom

April 29th, 2010
9:02 am

Hello Big Brother.

So what if you kid orders apples and milk with their happy meal, can they get a toy then?

TechMom

April 29th, 2010
9:09 am

Oh my favorite is the toddlers walking around with a bottle of sweet tea. Not only are they too old for a bottle but they’re drinking sweet tea out of it??? Why not just hook up an IV of sugar and caffeine to the kid?

Becky

April 29th, 2010
9:21 am

@cld..I’m with you on the fruit..The boy will eat nothing but fruit when given a chance..And he loves it all, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries..If I have all three in the fridge, he would eat all of them if I let him..My 2 love to eat veggies and people are always amazed that when we go out to eat, they orders veggies..If they eat their food, they are always allowed to have a dessert if they want it..

@JJ..I have a great neice like that..My sister lives in KY and we went over spring break to visit..She lives maybe 100 yards from the grocery store, the 10 year old neice said that was way to far to walk and wanted me to drive to the store..

So they can “ban” toys from the happy meals, but as others said, people have to step up and be parents..

MomsRule

April 29th, 2010
9:32 am

@MJG, your comment about the cherry tomatoes brought back memories of my oldest running around the yard (at age 2) eating big fat ripe juicey tomatoes straight off the vine like they were apples. Oh what a mess they made but, oh man, what great Kodak moments too. LOL!

abc

April 29th, 2010
9:41 am

When my kids were small, I’d buy the Happy Meal and throw the food away, keeping only the toy. Most of the time, they wouldn’t sell me just the toy by itself.

We never eat in fast food places. Ever! Notice there’s nothing but fatties in them? Hmmm.

ASD

April 29th, 2010
9:51 am

The answer is simple, really — Responsible parents rearing responsible children who then become responsible adults. Stop laying the blame elsewhere.

Wayne

April 29th, 2010
9:59 am

Regarding soda and kids: my kids don’t drink soda. I can recall going to the ER with my oldest (he was about 3, I think). He needed to take a pill and he wouldn’t. Wife and I kept asking for some applesauce or jello, something like that. The doctor, all holier than thou, said I have a trick! He has the nurse go out and bring back something. It was a soda, with a straw. He says to us, kids love this! We tell him, our kid never had a soda and he won’t like it. Sure enough, I thought M was going to spit the soda all over the doc! Too funny. Doc walked out of the room. They ended up finding some apple sauce.

McDonalds: what I’ve done is gone in and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich (cut up the chicken and give him a fork – no roll), nothing on it, a bag of apples, and a milk. Then get the toy separately. A whole lot better than a cheeseburger, fries, soda and toy. He’s happy he got his toy, and I’m happy he ate reasonably.

JATL

April 29th, 2010
10:08 am

I’ll never forget arriving at a family reunion with my then 1 year old. He was 13 months actually, and the minute we got out of the car, and he was fussy, I made the remark that we needed to fill his sippy. At that time we just gave him water and sometimes some juice in the morning. The first comment from a cousin was, “You’ve already taken his bottle away?” (YES -he’s 1 -it disappeared the day after his first birthday with no problem.) The second comment was, “Well, we have sweet tea, coke -how about Sprite -my kids love Sprite.” Uhhhhh -how about water? Don’t get me wrong -now he’s 4 and on special occasions or when we’re at a movie or a festival he DOES get a Sprite (I push that more than Coke because the last thing this kid needs is caffeine!) -but that’s the difference. YOU make wise decisions that don’t include pouring empty calories down your kid’s throats all day every day and teach them the meaning of “treat.” What’s wrong with the old -”YES, you can have a cookie or a pack of gummy fruit AFTER you finish your veggies!” 9 times out of 10 my kids have forgotten all about the junk and are full after they’ve been working on finishing the good stuff. I know that won’t always be the case, but I’m a big believer in moderation and physical activity. One cookie or a small piece of their favorite candy is NOT going to kill them if they’ve been running and playing outside all day or jumping their guts out at a bouncy place.

A BIG “treat” for them is frozen yogurt -not TCBY -but yogurt in the freezer. It’s like ice cream for them. We’ve also always told them that eating too many sweets WILL make you sick -because it will, and we’ve told them that if you eat too many sweets for too long, you’ll wind up having to give yourself shots every day. THAT got the oldest’s attention in a hurry! Sometimes he will actually turn down sweets and say he doesn’t want to have to get shots!

TechMom

April 29th, 2010
10:34 am

I’m not going to knock a Happy Meal every now and then- heck even I eat one every once in a while (they’re about 1/2 the calories as one of their ‘adult’ value meals and dang it, McDonald’s still has the best fries!) but the emphasis is EVERY NOW AND THEN, not every day.

Most people are dumb

April 29th, 2010
10:40 am

Its a fact! Most people are not even remotely intellegent. The world has advanced solely on the ideas and innovations of the top 2-3% of the population. The vast majority of us are barely able to utilize what those people have done for us. They created bridges and medicines. They built airplanes and steam ships. They did it, and we use it.

The fact is that no one should ever eat at McDonald’s under any circumstance. The food delivery system set up around the world is flawed and its destroying our planet. We are willingly eating poison while destroying the planet and we call this “Happy meals” among other things. The toys in the over packaged meals are produced in factories thousands of miles away by people who don’t make enough to even buy a happy meal of their own. Sometimes children build these toys for our children. The toys are made of harmful plastics that are destroying the oceans. They are shipped here 1000s of miles on boats that often leak oil into the ocean. The oil that is used is bought from people who use the profits to prop up governments that American people would find disgusting.

But, hey, its convenient!

I write again, people are stupid.

CPT

April 29th, 2010
10:41 am

Do they still read 1984 in school? They must have stopped in California…

catlady

April 29th, 2010
10:52 am

Ban procreating for people who don’t want the responsibility of raising their progeny.

catlady

April 29th, 2010
11:02 am

As the twig is bent, the tree inclined!

My kids didn’t get soft drinks or candy or chips. They did eat a lot of cheese and fruit, however, and as adults still choose them.

I have always (since 1974) had an organic garden and my kids would go out and graze–peas, corn, beans, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes–just pick and eat. What a thrill it was last summer to have my granddaughter come for an afternoon and graze her way through the little tomatoes! The year before that it was peas!

My son, who now has a son, told me he now gets why I was so “weird” on food. His boy will graze my garden this year!

I was NOT brought up that way, and learning to eat good food was hard. It helps to grow a garden where you can try new things and eat them FRESH and minimally processed.

catlady

April 29th, 2010
11:03 am

It’s real hard to fuss at your kid for asking for a snack of fruit or cheese or yogurt.

Becky

April 29th, 2010
11:03 am

@Wayne..My oldest sisters 2 boys (twins) didn’t know that other kids put sugar on their cereal until they went to a sleepover when they were about 10..They came home ranting all about it..She had never started them doing it, so to them the other kids were “strange”

@Techmom..Amen, they sure do have the best fries..You’re right EVERY NOW AND THEN..

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
11:09 am

I’ve always had a CRAZY solution for this….our family doesn’t eat fast food. You’d be amazed how my kid NEVER asks to go to McDonald’s, or BK, or Wendy’s, etc since he knows it’s not on the approved “family Ochocinco Mellencamp” list of dining establishments.

He was watching one of toy enticement commercials once with his grandmother and she asked if he wanted a happy meal to get the toy and he told her we didn’t eat there because it’s really unhealthy food. He was 5 when he told her this.

In our house, we didn’t need the county to help us with this matter.

Wayne

April 29th, 2010
11:28 am

I’ve known kids that parents weren’t able to pass a McDonald’s without throwing a fit. We go very rarely and the kids barely notice. The younger son when we first got him, would go “MMmmmm” when he saw the sign. We got him when he was 2. Now, doesn’t make a peep. He’ll be 4 in a couple months.

DB

April 29th, 2010
11:34 am

ROFL!! Good lord, are parents so weak-spined that the government has to pass a law banning toys so that the parent doesn’t have to flutter around and gird their loins with the courage to summon up the will to say “No, we aren’t going to Burger King. Now hush.”???

V for Vendetta

April 29th, 2010
11:40 am

Although I make my kids eat healthy–no soda, Chick-fil-a is a treat, “veggies first,” etc.–I think the REAL problem here is that this line of thinking is somewhat backwards. It wouldn’t matter what kids ate if they actually PLAYED OUTSIDE once in a while. Heck, my parents weren’t even as strict as I am now, but I was a skinny bean pole as a kid. Why? Because I rarely stopped moving. I loved cookies, cake, ice cream, etc., but I also loved sports, playing outside, running, jumping, climbing, exploring, etc.

If you get the kids to be more active, it won’t matter what they eat (to a certain extent).