THE BLOG

The New, Unhappy Meal

11/10/2010 11:04 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

When I think of McDonald's, and Happy Meals, I have nothing but good thoughts. Happy Meals for me bring back memories of shopping trips with my mother, grandmother, and younger siblings. At some point during the trip, my grandmother would always say, "Chile, get these children something to eat," at which point, we'd end up eating Happy Meals.

This was a big deal for the six of us, because our parents rarely took us to McDonald's, Burger King, or any fast food restaurants. It was a splurge! And it wasn't because it was expensive (in the 80s, Happy Meals were about $1.99); it was because it wasn't the healthiest thing. My favorite chicken nuggets growing up were the ones my mom made for us - from scratch, along with homemade barbeque sauce. Yes, my mom was really an overachiever.

And it wasn't just fast food that was limited in our home. All kinds of fat-filled cakes like Little Debbie's (our favorites!) were limited as well. In fact, my mom would allow us one per day, and then lock the pantry! Of course she always had a supply of fresh fruit and other healthy foods available for us whenever we wanted a snack. But the bad stuff was limited.

I'm also from a generation of kids who stayed outside and played until it was dark. We didn't have Nintendo until wayyyy after our friends. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. We had this thing called Interactivision that was a learning system. So corny - I know.

But this brings me to my point. While I don't think McDonald's is the healthiest thing for our children to consume, I don't think the government should right to regulate it, and ban toys from Happy Meals. Slowly, parents are losing the rights to parent their children. I keep hearing that toys in Happy Meals "entice children to purchase." Hmmm. With what money? Do four year-olds actually approach the register asking for one? Um, no. It's the parents who actually pay for it. Which begs the question: can't parents just say no to their kids? Mine did.

The issue here is over-indulgence. And this is not just a problem for our kids - it's a problem in our society. People over-indulged in houses they couldn't afford, and created a mess for the rest of us. Now we're in a war between Wall St. and Main St. where the under-indulgers are the biggest losers. It's the same with fast food. Children don't have to consume "fries and cokes" with their burgers or nuggets. They could just as easily get milk and fruit. Someone is making that choice for them, and that's the person that needs the real lesson in self-control. No one ever said raising children was easy. But we can't blame chains like McDonald's for our inability to make healthy choices.

Then there's the issue of what's next? Today it's toys in Happy Meals. Tomorrow, a legislator could decide that we're being enticed by Nordstrom to spend money we don't have at annual sales; so all sales are now illegal. We have really opened Pandora's box on this one.

Finally, I have to say that this is such a waste of government money. If these legislators in San Francisco are so concerned with children being healthier, why not spend the money on figuring out how local farms can have relationships with schools to provide them with fresh, healthy, local food? Or give the money to schools that have had to cut physical education. Or, even more controversial: ban video games. They're making our children fatter every day. There's also the idea of creating co-ops in low-income communities, where fast food chains are prevalent.

Also, on a final note to people who feel that toys entice children to want fast food, check out a product like Smashies. They've figured out how to make fresh fruit appetizing to children. I firmly believe that children will eat and love healthy food just as much as they will love fast food. So instead of wasting money to keep them out of McDonald's, let's figure out how to get the food that's best for them into their mouth