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

JJ

April 29th, 2010
12:57 pm

Fast food is neither!! LOL I saw that way back in the 90’s on a bumper sticker.

My ex sister in law, and both nieces eat out a restaurants the entire week the girls are with their mother. When they are with my brother, he is the one that cooks every single night. We came from a healthy eating home and we both try to pass that on to our kids. However, his gets hi-jacked when the kids are with their mom.

So many people just won’t take/make the time to eat healthy. It’s a lifestyle choice. And like “V”, we played outside sun up to sun down. We were NEVER home. Having 2 demanding dogs will force you to get out and at least walk. There’s just no excuse anymore for not eating right and exercising. I am so tired of the “I just don’t have the time to cook” excuse. MAKE THE TIME. Hell I whipped up some home made mac & cheese the other night in less than 45 minutes, start to finish and it is SO much healthier than the boxed stuff (which is loaded with sodium, preservatives, etc)….

JJ

April 29th, 2010
12:58 pm

AND with today’s deli sections in Kroger & Publix, you can pick up a rotisserie chicken and sides very easily!!! But some would rather sit in the drive through to get that freaking happy meal…..

Stookie

April 29th, 2010
1:20 pm

People just don’t want to put the effort into eating healthy. They would be horrified by what they are putting into their bodies. And we wonder why you can probably name 4-5 people you know that have died of cancer, diabetes related illness and heart disease. It’s what we are eating.

JJ, i am caught in that same type of situation as your brother. My boys know not to ask to be taken to McD’s, that they have to eat fruit as their snack when they get home from school and veggies/fruit is part of every meal.

Nadia74

April 29th, 2010
1:21 pm

What a joke. I don’t buy fast food meals for my kids for the toys. I buy them because I don’t want to cook or because I just feel like it. My kids don’t get the toys, anyways. I take them out of the bags and we pass them on to the treasure box at school, like Theresa said.

My kids are not unhealthy. They are fit, muscular, healthy children. Fast food is not going to send them into a downward spiral to obesity because we have balance in our lives.

(My daughter asked me why they have P.E. in school. I asked if she ever noticed how many kids in her school are overweight. I explained that P.E. might be the only exercise they get, that they probably don’t run around outside after school like she does.)

JATL

April 29th, 2010
1:28 pm

And what about the point that if parents do not teach their kids how to eat well, make healthy choices and get exercise, then no amount of banning toys in meals or taking chocolate milk and vending machines away from schools is going to help. Sooner or later those kids will be old enough to “score” whatever junk they want! By the time the kids get to elementary school, the eating habits are ingrained. Only the parents can make these changes really count for anything! Yet another example of parents not wanting to parent and people blaming everyone else for their own problems.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 29th, 2010
1:31 pm

LMAO @kathy re: “Start as you mean to go.” thats the advice i give to my daughters in how they treat their boyfriends as they never know which one they will end up getting married to :)

Lori

April 29th, 2010
1:43 pm

Banning toys is stupid. How does that fix anything. Parents know when they go to fast food places that the food isn’t good for their kids, yet they still chose to buy it. The toys may make the kids want to go there more often, but HELLO, you are the parent. Just because your kid wants a Happy Meal doesn’t mean you can’t stay home and make a healthy meal instead. A better idea than banning toys would be to put the calorie content of the meal on the box, so at least parents have that. Kids aren’t chosing to become obese, parents are making that choice for them by poor choices and an unhealthy lifestyle. How is banning toys going to change any of that?

MomsRule

April 29th, 2010
1:46 pm

I would love to see schools ban teachers from handing out candy every day.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
1:46 pm

@ Becky and Techmom LOL …I NEVER eat ” lunch or dinner” and Mc Donalds, as it was the ONLY thing open ( besides Denny’s) when I got off of work at Wal Mart ( 11:00) during college. PLUS it was the only thing I could afford. My kids know never to suggest it, if we are on a road trip. I would rather eat cardboard. I prefer Chik Fil A, Subway, Wendy’s and Burger King…in that order, if we are on the road in in a drive through. I will eat their breakfast but that is not to often.

When I was in HS, we lived in such a small town we did not even have Mac Donald’s….it was the DQ or nothing!

It appears some of you DO know Moms who are truly not
“doing what they can, the best way they can.” Guess I do not live in a vacuum.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
1:48 pm

@ momsrule….I never handed out candy but I do realize why some teachers do it:

Kids are used to being bribed ( by their parents) for everything.

To say we have made a mess ( with many kids today), is an understatement. Parents are losing control. Just ask a teacher…or not.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 29th, 2010
1:54 pm

i bribed my kids with yogurt covered raisins

JJ

April 29th, 2010
2:16 pm

The other thing my ex SIL does, is she will go to several drive throughs, for one meal. A hamburger here, french fries there, sweet tea there. Her reasoning is, I don’t like the fries at “X”, but love the burgers……love the Arby’s fries, but not the roast beef……

MomsRule

April 29th, 2010
2:26 pm

@MJG, with all due respect, it is a cop out to blame the parents for teachers handing out candy during the school day.

My kids were/are bribed at school. Not at home. If they are told to pick up the trash from the floor, they do it, because its the right thing to do. It is the teachers who offer the bribe when not necessary.

I do agree that lots of parents bribe. But, don’t blame the parents for what the teachers are doing in the classrooms.

motherjanegoose

April 29th, 2010
2:41 pm

@ momsrule…I agree but many kids find:

because its the right thing to do

a foreign concept, as their parents neither live by it nor enforce it.

I am only telling you what teachers tell me. I never used candy myself.

Most people are dumb

April 29th, 2010
2:42 pm

Eat More Chicken

http://www.all-creatures.org/anex/chicken.html

For those that love Chikfila, has it never occurred to you that those are awfully big chicken breasts? I mean, you’ve seen a chicken. How can they get them that big?

Maybe its the same reason that your pre-teen girls seem to also have larger breasts than you did at their age.

Stookie

April 29th, 2010
3:01 pm

@Most, greta point. Just b/c you are eating chicken doesn’t make it healthy. All the steriods, chemicals and preservatives put into foods these days impacts us all.

MomsRule

April 29th, 2010
3:10 pm

@MJG, we agree in concept :) but disagree when it comes to holding the teachers blameless when it comes to what happens at school.

JATL

April 29th, 2010
3:30 pm

Seriously -Most has a good point -between the Pink Slime I posted about that is in ALL fast food ground beef and the “juiced” and tortured chickens -almost all fast food is disgusting, and that’s without taking into account calories, fat, sodium, and how nasty the person preparing it may be that day…

Becky

April 29th, 2010
3:39 pm

@MJG.. I don’t eat at McDonalds for lunch or dinner either except every once in a blue moon..I do take the kids there though..The boy doesn’t eat fries, so I will eat his that come with his happy meal..Funny about not having a McDonalds though..The small town that my sister lives in to this day only has McDonalds and BK and the McDonalds is only about 2 years old..The bigger shocker to that is, none of the people that work there are high school kids, they are all “older” people and they are all very nice and polite..

Most people are dumb

April 29th, 2010
4:08 pm

Its not just fast food either JATL. The Rotisserie Chickens that JJ mentioned above are juiced. The hamburger meat at the grocery store is likely farmed under horrible circumstances.

If you are going to eat meat, find a responsible butcher, who can tell you where his meat originated.

Eat organic whenever possible.

Even our vegetables are contaminated by corruption. Monsanto has patented so many seeds and they force the small farmer into compromising situations.

Grow your own food if possible. Raise backyard chickens.

Buy locally farmed organics if you can.

You don’t have to eat meat with every meal either. Some rice and beans makes a great meal all by itself. And now we have fresh corn too!

JATL

April 29th, 2010
4:16 pm

@Most -most of the ground beef in grocery stores also contains the pink slime as does ALL of our kid’s school lunch ground beef! I’m with you on that -if you’re going to eat meat, PARTICULARLY ground beef, go to a store where they grind 100%Natural and/or organic beef. All of your beef needs to be grass fed as well. Seriously -people who are regulars on this blog know I’m not an alarmist who feels like everything is out to get us and we should wrap our kids in padding and never let them leave the house, but what is going on with our food and particularly our meat and poultry products is downright scary!

And yes -Monsanto is the devil!

Stookie

April 29th, 2010
4:20 pm

Thank you Most. Living in Georgia, there is no reason you shouldn’t be buying your veggies, fruits and what ever you can from local farmers.

FCM

April 29th, 2010
4:57 pm

Actually MJG I found the reverse to be true. My children found in day care or school they were bribed to do things. They now think they can negotiate for anything I ask them to do…They can’t. The can however have a choice:

Do what I say or suffer what consequences I deem necessary (ie loss of tv, bed early, etc). To me that is not a bribe the bribe would be do this and get tv, stay up late. There is no garauntee that if they do what I tell them they will get those things, only the promise they lose them if they don’t do what I say.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
5:07 pm

raise backyard chickens? For some reason I think the HOA might have a problem with that chicken wire look in the neighborhood. Not that I’m against it, but I swear to god if I have a neighbor whose rooster is waking me up on weekend mornings, my neighbor will soon have a dead rooster.

HB

April 29th, 2010
5:19 pm

I quit eating meat other than fish a few years ago because I felt industry practices were out of control. JATL, the article you posted freaked me out even more that I already was. It’s truly horrifying the amount of drugs being pumped into our food supply (not to mention animals being fed to animals), and the conditions in which most food animals are raised are really cruel. If I felt my dietary needs weren’t being met, I’d consider eating meat purchased from local farmers whose cows are pasture-fed and chickens aren’t stuffed in cages, but I honestly can’t imagine ever eating meat from a fast food restaurant again (or a school cafeteria for that matter).

JATL

April 29th, 2010
10:25 pm

Tell me about it HB! I’ve long known that fast food and “average” ground beef, etc. was not so hot to put into your body, but I do have my cravings and weak moments that I would often indulge with a McDonald’s cheeseburger or some cheese Krystals. NO MORE! I haven’t eaten fast food since January. I did let my oldest son get the chicken nugget happy meal with the two-headed dragon from “How to Train Your Dragon” because he wanted it and it was his special treat that week. When I think about that pink slime, I just heave! When I think about all of it I’ve probably eaten in the past, I heave more! I do still eat meat, but it’s local, grass fed and if ground -ground on premises out of fresh beef. SO, I don’t eat much meat because it costs a fortune! It’s truly a treat when I eat it, and I kind of think that’s the way it should be.

JATL

April 29th, 2010
10:27 pm

@Tiger -I live in the city of Atlanta -seriously -two miles from Centennial Park downtown, and we have chickens in our neighborhood! I actually love them. I love to hear the roosters crow and I like to see them roaming around. My kids LOVE it!

motherjanegoose

April 30th, 2010
8:04 am

@JATL no chickens for me…I lived on a 400 acre farm in HS and that is where chickens belong. Glad we cannot have chickens in our subdivision in Gwinnett….hahaha! I smelled that chicken poop while on the school bus ,passing those who were getting thier chickens ready for Tyson, too many hot days.

Becky

April 30th, 2010
8:33 am

@JATL..My sister lives in downtownn Smyrna and her and 2-3 of her neighbors have chickens..

JJ

April 30th, 2010
8:59 am

The Suwanee Farmer’s Market opens tomorrow!!!!!! Saturday 8:00 a.m. until noon; Tuesdays from 4 – 7. Suwanee Towne Park!!!!! Support your local farmers/community!!!!!!

I’ll be there….I can’t wait. This is what I love to do on Saturdays. Get a cup of coffee (from home, thank you) and stroll the market. Oh I cannot wait until tomorrow!

JATL

April 30th, 2010
9:40 am

Well, MJG -you don’t smell chicken poop when there are a handful of chickens roaming your neighborhood. You smell chicken poop (and I grew up in the country, so I’ve smelled plenty) when you go by a giant factory farm operation that has thousands of chickens crammed in those long, low sheds. A regular coop with 10-20 chickens nesting in it and being allowed to roam a yard doesn’t stink. It may have a slight odor if you get right there in the coop, but nothing you can smell from the road. Whenever you cram any animal together -pigs, dogs, chickens, cats -doesn’t matter -you’ll have a disgusting poop smell. That’s just a small reason many of us are REALLY into free range, smaller farms and food sources.

FCM

April 30th, 2010
10:43 am

JATL–ROFL–I came home from Helen about 10 years ago behind a truck with all those chickens crammed in cages. I had forgotten until just now about that. OMG it stunk to high heaven and there was no way to pass that truck for what seemed like hours!

PJ

April 30th, 2010
1:47 pm

I like ice cream sundaes. Two scoops of ice cream, butterscotch & lots of whipped cream. Should I eat this every day? No, of course not – I don’t even like to think about the fat grams or calories. But is a great treat sometimes. McDonald’s Happy Meals are a great treat sometimes too. Even better that the treat meal comes with a toy – an extra treat with the treat. I don’t want the government telling me that I can’t have my dessert – I spent the whole week exercising, eating a balanced diet, helping my family make healthy choices. So when it comes to our indulgences, why not something my kids enjoy? Sure, it is not the healtiest choice by far, but the calorie counts are very resonable and the serving sizes make sense. It is a wonder that a city would blame the restaurants and not choose to deal with the problems that exist inside the school cafeterias (as shown so well by Jamie Oliver) and in the minds of parents who may not understand the key is moderation. I ran 5 days this week, my kids rode bikes, played chase & ran around the playground most days, we had balanced meals together around the table, so maybe we’ll hit Bruster’s or McD’s this weekend. We’ve been good & deserve our treats.

PickinNits

April 30th, 2010
3:02 pm

It’s all about moderation…..you don’t let kids subsist on a diet of fast food, nor is it wise to completely cut them off from junk food of all types. I don’t understand why some parents are so freaked out over the idea of their child consuming a candy bar here and there or a soda from time to time. It makes for a well rounded (hold your fat jokes please, you know what I mean) kid and later adult.
Parents should raise their children by giving them enough exposure and knowledge that they can make their own decisions later….and hopefully make good ones for themselves. Be it food, entertainment, religion, politics, whatever…..my job is to make sure my kids have the intelligence and experience to make their own decisions when they are on their own. If my kids come out believing everything I believe and doing things the way I do them (good and bad), I will have FAILED as a parent.

motherjanegoose

April 30th, 2010
4:11 pm

O.K…I know some of you are sick of my stories. Sorry.

I am in Illinois and had a lunch with an educator. The conversation went to family meals. She shared that so many families today do not even eat at home and they get dinner together at Mc Donald’s, quite often in the drive through. No table and no manners. I thought of the blog.

Families today are NOT the way they used to be and the kids are suffering. Educators tell me this nearly every week. Meals are just one aspect. Neither of us can figure out how to get many parents back on the right track. She is in her late 60’s and has seen so much more than I have.

NO …many Moms and Dads are NOT doing the best they can. Anyone who thinks so is in a vaccuum. I am dead serious. They are doing whatever is easiest because they have lost their spine.

Thank you to the parents who actually have a balanced meal and whose kids do eat their fruits and veggies or even what is put on the table in front of them, without whining. If you are this parent….give yourself a BIG pat on the back! If your kids have table manners, you get a double pat!

FCM

May 1st, 2010
4:01 pm

MJG I agree table manners are important. I insist on the whether we are eat Mom cooked meals or not. I insist on them regardless of the venue too.

LSH

May 1st, 2010
6:41 pm

I’m more than a little irritated at the “holier than thou” attitude being presented by some of the mothers here. Raising children is not a science, it’s not a+ b= c and you get what you want. I, too was a “they eat what they know” kind of mother. My first was a healthy, robust and active child who tucked into whatever was placed in front of him. People would marvel at how he would attack a plate of vegetables and fruit with gusto. I, of course attributed his healthy eating habits to my excellent parenting skills and high standards. Then came along #2. And even though I did the exact same thing, with the added benefit of the example presented by the adored big brother, this one was the pickiest eater known to man. He didn’t like anything. I held firm:” they eat when they are hungry, he won’t let himself starve I told myself. ” I was not going to be one of “those” mothers who let their kid eat whatever. Eventually, I was counseled by my pediatrician to loosen up a bit. Raising children is a humbling experience. Kids are who they are. And while there are some very crummy parents out there, most of us are trying our very best each and every day and being judged by people who spend their days up on high don’t do any of us any good.

HB

May 1st, 2010
10:50 pm

Well said, LSH. Most children will eat a greater variety of foods if parents expose them to them while still refusing some, but among the many children I’ve worked closely with whose parents really did try hard to get their children to eat healthy food and did not regularly eat fast food, there were those few children who never would eat more than a handful of items. I knew one family like yours where the oldest ate everything and you could count on one hand what the 2nd child would eat. Their 3rd was a more typical kid. It’s easy to judge from afar and seems to make some people feel really good about themselves when they look down on others.

FCM

May 2nd, 2010
8:46 am

I fell into the only healthy stuff at home and found on the rare occassion I would buy “junk” or holiday candy (Halloween, valentine, etc) came home it evaporated. I got a BAD ant problem in the kids room (3 or 4 years ago) and decided the best way to get rid of it was to follow the line it went from the window that needed a better seal (caulk) to a dresser drawer…AH HA! Candy wrappers, chip bags, cookies….my child (6 or 7) was hording food! I cleared out the ants (and the food) sat them both down and had a frank discussion. Occassionally I do find a food wrapper in a bedroom (major no-no in my house) but since I let up on the healthy only snacks..I find they do make better choices. Cookies and such once in a while. Fruit daily. Vegetables daily. My youngest adores salad especially with garbonza beans and beets. (I won’t touch either). We are still working on some of my favorite vegetables (aspargus and artichokes) but over all they do better than avg.

Another thing that helps is I let them select vegetables at the store and prepare them at home. Preparing dinner changes “I don’t like that” to “Wow, I made this and it tastes good!” Plus they are learning to cook.

I do buy the “junk” but now that it is not “forbidden” it has lost the appeal.

Like most things it is about balance.

Oh and LSH mine still go through finky stages. What they ate last week they won’t this. For awhile PB&J was in, now not so much. Ham and Roast Beef replaced it. These days they want Salami and crackers. And I swear if the youngest had her way she would BE a chicken nugget, despite the salad.

motherjanegoose

May 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

I apologize if my comments where”holier than thou”. My kids were genrally good eaters, as they mostly ate what we ate. I adhere to the ” if they are hungry..they will eat..” it worked for me. I know it does not work for every child.

I was offended with this same attitude on VBACS, as those who chatised me did not walk the walk I walked but were quick to tell me I was over reacting, even though my child was birth injured.

HB, you reminded us that:

there were those few children who never would eat more than a handful of items.

I also know this to be true. The emphasis is on FEW and while LSH certainly could have children in this category…there are many others who will tell you their kids only eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. My perspective here is affected by how many children I observe and the way the parents handle it. I know you have interacted personally with more children than most and I have too.

I have a FOODS unit and work with over 1000 kids during that month, It is amazing what some kids tell me they like to eat…while others eat pizza!

FCM

May 2nd, 2010
8:50 am

Oh one other thought…espcially since I mentioned hoarding the food. I have 2 girls. Even at their young age (10 & 8) they have body image issues…too thin, gaining, whatever. Both are far from obese, both are very proportionate and active. One of the big reasons I decided to let junk in the house on a more regular basis was because when they get to be teens I do not want to have anorexia and bulemia going on.

Becareful on the health only, you don’t want to set them up for other issues where the feel they have to hide their eating habits from you.

motherjanegoose

May 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

@ FCM….LOL…I just finished my INSECT unit and we talked about ants sneaking in to find food…maybe crumbs from a cookie in your bed.

I love beets but my husband never cared for them. We grew them on the farm, when I was a girl.
I never served them and about a year ago my daughter tried them and asked me why we never had them at home. My husband has a very basic palette ( he did not venture much out of meat/veggie/ potato/pasta when he was growing up). I typically tried to introduce various items that the kids might eat, especially in season. One likes asparagus ( sp?) and the other does not. My son loves sushi…I will eat it but it is not something I get excited about.

Off to the airport….

Bubber

May 2nd, 2010
2:10 pm

Why is water never an option? “Drink apple juice instead of chocolate milk” suggested one ‘expert’.

It’s up to parents to feed their children, NOT the California government.

flyguy

May 22nd, 2010
8:03 pm

Turn off the play stations and computers and get the rug rats outside playing

Rosin

May 22nd, 2010
9:36 pm

This is not going to work. Kids are fat because they don’t do much. They just watch TV, play video games, etc. Kids need to exercise. Remember that a diet without a exercise doesn’t work for adults either. I raised 3 kids and none of them is heavy, but it was my responsability to give them good food and treat them to a fast food once in a while. This is just a political move, another way of the goverment telling us what to do.

sdmichelle.990

May 23rd, 2010
8:46 pm

I agree that this law is crazy and will not do anything to combat the childhood obesity problem – which is very real and should be addressed with REAL solutions.

My question is this: How can we stop this law from spreading across the country?? check out my blog at momcares.wordpress.com

Mommy2

June 25th, 2010
12:10 am

I don’t think banding toys in fast-food meals for kids would help at all. I think parents should watch what their kids eat. I think kids should eat at home more and not the frozen dinner type meals. Frozen dinners and quick micro meals are just as bad.

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