This is a good question. Are fast food restaurants to blame for the epidemic of childhood obesity? Does that toy in the kid’s meal cause them to gain weight? I think we should look at this issue rationally.
How the Blame Game Fails our Kids: If we can blame someone else for what is wrong, then we can absolve ourselves. I include myself in this, there are plenty of issues where I’m guilty of the same thing. However, that is not going to turn this epidemic around. Blame is what my mother calls a “willyword.” It may make you feel better but it does absolutely no good.
It’s Our Job: Could the schools, restaurants and the rest of society help in this area? Absolutely. Is it their responsibility? No. No, it is my job and your job. It’s the task of the parent to educate their children about good nutrition, the need to exercise and so on.
That’s not going to be easy, we’ve got a lot of competition for their attention. 300 channels on the TV, computers, game stations and other things take up the time they could be outside playing (meaning getting some exercise). If all of the adults in your household work, planning, shopping for and preparing a nutritious meal is going to whittle away what precious little time you have after and before work. Then again, I don’t think parenting has ever been easy.
Teaching Menu Reading: Young children aren’t going to understand about menus, so you’ll have to do that for them. Thankfully, many fast food chains are offering healthier choices for their young clients. However, once they are big enough to look at the grownup menu longingly, it’s time to introduce them to nutrition information.
While this information must be displayed at chain restaurants, most of the time at a fast food place it’s on a wall and in type 2 font. However, this information is also often on the corporate website. Show your child the calorie counts, fat/sodium/cholesterol content, etc. Then, explain what that means in terms of what they can eat for the next two days…one fast food burger meal often uses up two days worth of fat and at least one and a part of sodium.
Vote with your Wallet: Fast food restaurants are in business to make money. If you don’t buy it, they’ll stop making it. Reward the restaurants that offer healthy foods on their menus by shopping there and actually purchasing the products. This will encourage them to find more healthy items to add to their menus.
Childhood obesity is such a big problem, it is now considered a national security threat. While our society should do all it can to help us, it really is our job as parents to tackle the issue.