Foodie Friday: A Happy Ending to Happy Meals

happymealThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to ban the distribution of toys with fast food meals that have a calorie count of more than 600. Fast food chains and other restaurants are allowed to include toys with meals as long as they do not exceed 600 calories and include fruits or vegetables. The ban will go into effect in December 2011.

I, for one, applaud San Francisco.

Having once worked on a public health-driven task force with the SF Board of Supervisors, I wasn’t surprised about the ban. The health of San Francisco’s residents, especially among children, is a big issue among city officials. With childhood obesity on the rise and the growing number of Type II diabetes cases among children, I agree that it’s important to put an end to enticing children with a fun item for an unhealthy product.  I liken the use of toys to promote and sell Happy Meals to the use of cartoon images to sell alcohol or cigarettes. The death of Joe Camel was a good move among advertisers and I believe that an end to the inclusion of toys with unhealthy meals for children will be a good thing as well.

Some people are up in arms about the ban because they don’t want government telling them what their families can and cannot eat (doesn’t the FDA do that already?). This ban does nothing of the sort. This ban is ultimately about marketing and advertising unhealthy products towards children. As a parent, it’s also about rewards. I want to see our society go back to a healthier era when it comes to the consumption of food. Children used to be rewarded with a treat if they ate their healthy dinner. However, in the past few decades, we’ve been rewarding children with toys when they eat an unhealthy fast food meal.  If parents and fast food chains want to really reward a child, put a toy in a bag of carrots. Give a small portion of a dessert after a child eats green beans with dinner. To me, that sounds like the happiest meal of all.

What do you think about the ban? Would love to hear from you.