Kids’ Meal Toys with Unhealthy Fast Food?

Our county was the first in the nation to ban restaurants from using toy giveaways to lure kids to high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar kids’ meals.  Under the ban it is fine to offer toys with kids’ meals as long as the meals meet basic nutritional guidelines, such as no more than a generous 485 calories per meal and no more than 600 mg of sodium. By comparison a healthy girl age 4 to 8 years old should get about 1000 calories a day from food, usually divided into three meals plus two snacks. A nugget meal with apples slices and milk would qualify for a toy; a cheeseburger, fries, and soda would not.

I work with families at Stanford University’s Packard Children’s Hospital in Santa Clara County, where the Supervisors enacted this ban. The ban only impacts unincorporated parts of the county – which doesn’t include any actual McDonalds. The original vote enacting the ban was 3-2. The California Restaurant Association was given 90 days to come up with an alternative. The final vote takes place on May 11.

Childhood obesity is a crisis in our country, and disproportionately so among kids whose parents are less well educated. What we have done so far has not been working. Some in our county see this new measure as restrictive, invasive, and missing the point; others see it as welcome, just, educational, and liberating – supporting parents in feeding their kids how they want and protecting them from undue negative influence from corporate interests.  What do you think?

My questions:

1) As parents do you think that this restricts your freedom or enhances your freedom?

2) Is this move good for children or bad for children?

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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