2010 30/04

Are Happy Meal toys making our kids fat?

Last month I tweeted about how some lawmakers in California were trying to get laws passed to ban toys in McDonald’s happy meals.  Their reasoning — combating childhood obesity.  Apparently it’s the toy in the Happy Meal that is making our children fat.

Ok, they aren’t exactly arguing that it is the toy that is making our children fat but more so that the toys are drawing the children into wanting those unhealthy meals.  Their thought is that if we get rid of the toys, then kids won’t want the meal.  Really?  Really? Do they really believe that it’s the toy that has minivans lining up in the drive-thru line come dinner time?  I disagree.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the toys that McDonalds (and some other fast food chains) offer in their kids meals are pretty cool!  My girls love the Disney Princess dress-up stuff we got a while ago.  And some of the technology involved in their toys is really amazing, for “free” toys.  But I’m not packing the kids up and heading to McDonalds for the toys, no matter how cool they are.  We’re going because it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s cheap.  Not the healthiest of choices, I’ll admit that!

Today the ladies of The View were talking about this push to rid the Happy Meals of their toys and they brought up some interesting points.  They mentioned making the meals healthier, of course, but if you really want your child to eat a salad instead of a cheeseburger, then order the salad.  You can buy the toy separate if your child can’t live with out it.  The truth is most 8 year olds don’t want the salad.  And if they did, they’d be going somewhere else for dinner.  The truth is that most moms and dads going to McDonalds don’t want the salad either.

Whoopi brought up a really great point, the best point I’ve heard on the topic thus far.  Why punish everyone by removing the toy?  There are a lot of people who do go to McDonalds (children included) who are not obese.  It is a treat for some kids to get a Happy Meal now and again.  Why punish those who don’t have a weight issue by removing the toy just because some people have a problem saying “no” to the daily french fry?

Again, my overall thought on this is that it is not the toy making your kids fat!  I am willing to bet that, even if McDonalds does get rid of their Happy Meal toys, the majority of people who go to McDonalds now will continue to go.  I don’t believe that the lack of Hot Wheels or mini Barbie dolls is going to slow down the traffic in the drive-thru.  Also, from what I’ve noticed and through my experience, it seems that those kids who are obese aren’t necessarily ordering the kids meals off the menu but are going for the larger adult meals instead.

Now, I’m not this huge advocate or spokesperson for McDonalds.  I believe this is true in so many other venues and restaurants.  Let’s take cereal, for example.  They pretty much got rid of toys in cereal boxes a long time ago and I’m willing to bet that the lack of toy has not slowed down the purchase of the sugary cereals lining store shelves.  I don’t believe for one minute that even one customer said, “What? No toy in my Lucky Charms? Forget it! I’ll take the All Bran instead.” Toy or no toy, a majority of kids want the sugary cereal.  Toy or no toy, a majority of kids will still want McDonalds.

We need to stop placing the blame for our health and weight issues, our kids health and weight issues, on others.  On McDonalds.  On sugary cereals.  We need to start taking responsibility as parents for what our children are eating.  Did you watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution?  I thought it was so interesting that, despite all of the efforts Jamie was making to get healthy food in the school, kids were still coming to school with lunches packed full of sugar and processed foods.  It all starts in the home.

If you want children to choose healthy foods, then offer them healthy foods…at home.  Don’t rely on McDonalds to do it for you.

What do you think?  Are you all for this Happy Meal toy ban?


  • This is so ridiculous for so many reasons. And just another example of the government thinking they need to step in because the poor, stupid everyday people can’t think for themselves. You analogy about cereal was perfect. Ugh.

  • Exactly! And the more that the government steps in, the more people won’t take responsibility for their own actions!

  • Great article! I find myself having to “undo” the unhealthy habits of my husband. I love my in-laws, but I can see why he eats the way he does. They do not know moderation, portion control or fresh ingredients. I have had to speak to them about giving my kids sweets. As a grandma, she is welcome to give sweets to the kids…but can you give them one or two lollipops, not a box of 100 at a time. Then I have to be the bad guy saying we can’t have them all the time. Uggg… anyway, I agree toys are not the problem. :-)

  • Oh Kirsten, I’ve totally been there! Again. And Again. And Again!

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