Fast food toy ban, effective or not?

7 Apr

A little over a year ago, San Francisco implemented a ban on the children’s toy that usually comes with McDonald’s Happy Meals.  The ban stated that a meal had to fit a certain nutritional standard in order for the toy to be included.  In order to be served with a toy, the meal must contain:

–          Fewer than 600 calories

–          Less than 35% total calories from fat

–          ½ cup of fruit

–          ¾ cup of vegetables

–          Less than 640 milligrams sodium

–          Less than .5 milligrams trans fat

Obviously, this is a move made to try to put a halt on childhood obesity.  Regulating what McDonalds can and can’t serve is a tricky ordeal.  Should governments regulate fast food meals?  Do you think they have the right to?  In my opinion, parents should be the ones in charge of monitoring what their kids are or aren’t eating.  However, advertising toys with meals is specifically targeting children and I don’t feel that this is right either.

I have seen some articles compare the fast food industry to an earlier version of the tobacco industry.  Comparing the tobacco industry’s initial attitude of proclaiming that their product isn’t harmful to a person’s health (despite a boatload of research saying it is) to the fast food industry’s constant denial of their product as being “bad” for you.  There are also the comparisons about each industry targeting the younger population.

What do you think, is this toy ban fair or foul?  Should toys be allowed to be sold at all with kids meals?  Does this open the door for more bans and regulations on fast food service?

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/fast-food-toy-ban_n_1181325.html

http://www.fastfoodmarketing.org/

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/food_industry_pursues_the_strategy_of_big_tobacco/2136/

Not as cheap as you think

5 Apr

Many people, including myself until recently, think of eating healthy as being more expensive than fast food.  Well, it turns out this may not be the case, which is good news!  All it takes is a little bit of shopping knowledge to get the most bang for your buck.  Not only will you be dining on a budget but you will also be eating foods much more nutritious than those fried chicken nuggets and salty French fries.

Some people may argue that calorie for calorie, fast food holds the most value.  At what cost to the body, though? Americans are already getting more calories than they need.  And the calories obtained from fast food are not the most nutritionally beneficial.

Let’s look at a real life example.  A meal for four from McDonalds, consisting of a couple Big Mac’s, a few chicken McNuggets, a couple medium and small sodas, a few orders of fries, and a McFlurry, may costs somewhere in the $20-$25 dollar range.  In contrast, a roasted chicken with vegetables, salad, and milk can be obtained for roughly $15, and serve just as many.

Tips for purchasing inexpensive (and healthier) options at the supermarket:

–          Be on the lookout for coupons

–          Buy store brands, they are just as good

–          Buy in large quantities

–          Don’t buy anything you don’t need

–          Make a list and stick to it.

–          Don’t shop hungry

Remember to keep in mind that healthier eating doesn’t have to consist of expensive organic vegetables from the farmers market.  Small changes in the kitchen make a big difference.  The truth is that most food you can purchase is healthier than those drive-through options.  Cooking more often should be a goal for families.  Cooking does not have to be a long and laborious project.  After all, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to grill up some chicken and vegetables.

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/is-junk-food-really-cheaper.html?pagewanted=2

http://therounds.stanly.org/

Fast food and the obesity battle

2 Apr

America has been growing bigger and bigger.  And no, we’re not getting taller, just wider.  According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity in the United States doubled between 1980 and 2000.  In fact, approximately 36% of US adults are considered obese.  This has been a much publicized problem in the US.  We have been seeing health problems that we have not seen before.  For example, type 2 diabetes being diagnosed in young people.  Is fast food a factor in these changes? I happen to think so.  Our food is becoming more and more processed by the day and more and more people are choosing fast food over home cooked meals.  These meals contain excess calories and possess low nutritional value.

It has been shown that a fast food restaurant within .1 miles of a school correlates with a 5.2% increase in the obesity rate of its students compared to a fast food restaurant .25 miles away.  It has also been shown that pregnant women gain more weight when a fast food restaurant is in closer proximity.  These findings may suggest that keeping fast food places a certain distance from schools could be beneficial in preventing obesity.

In my opinion, a lot of the responsibility falls on parents.  They should be pushing their kids in the right direction in regards to smart food choices.  However, a problem lies in the fact that many parents are just as uneducated as their children and do not know how to make healthy choices.   Possibly solutions or steps towards a solution may be nutritional educating as early as elementary school.  Regulating and limiting junk food in schools and cafeteria’s may also help.

Resources:

http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~sdellavi/wp/fastfoodJan09.pdf

http://www.fastfoodmarketing.org/media/FastFoodFACTS_Report_Conclusions.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html

Why so appealing?

28 Mar

Fast food is undoubtedly one of the most marketed products out there.  I would challenge anyone to watch an hour of television that doesn’t contain commercials for fast food.  Ever watch late night television? Viewers are bombarded with ads during the late night hours.  Resisting the temptation can be a difficult task.  I know I have given in on more than one occasion.

Picture the scenario:  it’s hours past dinner, your stomach is starting to rumble as the pre-bedtime hunger is beginning to creep up on you.  You’re on your third episode of The Office when it cuts to commercial break and there it is, a perfectly crafted hamburger calling out your name.  Now, you’re really hungry.  As is typical for a college student, you have no food in your apartment.  The nearest Burger King is only a short five minute drive away.  You check your wallet… $4, perfect.

The reality of the matter is that the fast food industry spends a lot of money on advertising.  In 2009, the industry as a whole spent more than 4.2 billion dollars on advertising.  That figure includes television ads, radio, magazines, billboards, etc.  Compared to 2003, teenagers viewed 39% more television ads for fast food in 2009.  It really is impossible to avoid the constant in your face advertising.  And in a country that has been struggling with an ongoing obesity and weight problem, this is quite the problem.

What can you do?  Watch DVDs.  In all seriousness, it is best to just have some healthy snacks lying around.  For me, my go to snack is a big glass of skim milk.  Milk is both satisfying and nutritious, and perfect for a late night snack.

Resource: http://www.fastfoodmarketing.org/media/FastFoodFACTS_Report_ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Are there healthy options?

22 Mar

You don’t want to stop, you feel guilty even thinking about it.  However, you’re on a 7 hour road trip and want to keep up the pace.  You need something quick and convenient.  The rest stop along the highway only has a McDonalds and a Burger King.  What do you do?  If you’re stuck in a situation like this there’s no need to worry.  Believe it or not, there actually are some healthy options when it comes to fast food dining.  In fact, most fast food restaurants have some sort of healthier options.  The trick is knowing how to find them.

The first thing to keep in mind when ordering is that smaller is better.  There are typically 3 or 4 serving size options but the smallest size serving usually packs the most appropriate amount of calories.  This will even keep your costs down!  Secondly, water is your best friend.  Choosing water over a soda will instantly make your meal much healthier and lower the calorie count.  Salads can be a good option if remember avoid the dressing, it can be a hidden source of unwanted calories and fat as it is not included in the nutrition labeling.

Other tricks:

–          Order sandwiches without the dressing.  For example: ask for no mayonnaise on your chicken sandwich.

–          Avoid the larger “value” meals.  You will be full after the smaller versions, I promise.

–          Check the nutritional values before ordering.  Most websites of the larger fast food chains list all the nutritional values of their foods and most restaurants have them on hand, just ask.

–          Grilled over fried whenever possible.

For example, let’s look at this the nutritional composition of a Hamburger Happy Meal from McDonalds with the healthier options selected.  A Hamburger Happy Meal with apple dippers (without caramel) and with milk or 100% juice contains 385 calories.  If you take the same meal and replace the apple dippers with fries and the milk with a soda or other sugary drink, the meal boasts a much higher calorie count at 600 calories.  Unfortunately, the latter of these two meal versions is usually served because that is the default version.  A customer must specifically ask for the apple dippers and the milk.

Resources:

http://www.helpguide.org/life/fast_food_nutrition.htm

http://www.fastfoodmarketing.org/about_facts.aspx