Should Happy Meal Toys Be Banned?

From fast food to chocolate milk, jurisdictions across the country are taking aim at kids’ eating habits

By: Monica Sakala

Last fall, San Francisco was the first jurisdiction to impose a ban on toys inside McDonald’s Happy Meals (or any other meal that contains more than 600 calories and 640 milligrams of sodium). Last week, the New York City Council proposed a similar measure.

Should legislators around the Beltway take aim at the Happy Meal, too? The proposal currently being considered in New York allows toys when Happy Meals are ordered with the veggie or fruit side option (which puts the calorie count below 500). So despite my initial “nanny state” reaction, it’s not quite that extreme.

Our nation’s childhood-obesity rate has skyrocketed in recent years, with 1 out of 3 children now considered overweight or obese. There’s no doubt that parents need to do better when it comes to making sure their kids eat healthy and exercise. But has it finally gotten so bad that we need this type of government interference into how and what we feed our kids?

This Washington Post article on the controversial recent decisions by DC and Fairfax County public schools to ban chocolate milk in the cafeteria shows what a flashpoint the issue of the government intervening on kid’s eating habits has become, including (or, perhaps, especially) in our area.

There’s a part of me that believes parents ought to be solely responsible for preventing their kids from eating too many Happy Meals, toy or no toy. Then again, as parents, we can’t be everywhere to make decisions all the time. If a surrogate caregiver offers my child something to eat or drink that I’d never give them, is that really such an over-step into my family? On the other hand, there’s a part of me that sees just how many kids these days are struggling with their weight and feels like we ought to be doing something about it.

What do you think? Are these kinds of laws a step toward more government interference in how we feed our kids? Or are they an earnest attempt to teach our kids to make healthy food choices?

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