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The right age to feed kids fast food?


rgruby
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My dude is two now. Eats what we eat (more or less).

He's eaten non-chain fast food a few times (burgers, fish and chips etc.)

Mickey D's and Subway, to name but two, are within a ten minute walk of our house. Quiznos as well. Although I rarely eat at any of them (McDonalds maybe once in the past year - maybe because I know I was there fairly recently), I suspect one day soon it'll happen again. And if my kid is with me, he'll probably want to have what I'm having. Or maybe he'll go to a birthday party where the kids all go there. Or he'll see an ad on tv and connect it with that place we walk past that has the same sign and want to go there. Or we'll be on holiday and give in to the easy and familiar. At any rate, at some point, maybe not really soon, but soon enough, he'll probably end up eating at a fast food joint.

So, how old was your kid (or kids) when they were first exposed to big-chain fast food? What were the circumstances? Was it your idea or theirs?

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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I have a 16 year old boy. We lived in an area surrounded by fast food chains near a college. 7-11 slurpees were first - we walked there for a treat on a hot summer day maybe age 2-1/2..but we walked. Then the grandpa took him to the park once a week and they ended up with another grandpa and grandson at McD. These kids were way more interested in the toys and the play area than the Happy Meal itself. So of course the tie-in marketing is a big deal. As a teen he does eat alot of fast food because they can walk there and fill an immediate need hunger. He knows food is always available at home but it is more an independence issue and get out of the house issue. He has been exposed to lots of different foods and "fast chain food" is just a part of what is out there.

On any given day asking him what he wants for a late breakfast the answers are things like sausage and fruit, pho, steak and garlic bread - not take me to McD.

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Our son will be two on Friday and, like your son Geoff, pretty much just eats what we eat. The problem I'm having with answering your question, though, is that the definitions are a bit difficult to pin down. I understand that McDonald's is the archetype -- and no, our son hasn't had McDonald's yet (it's not something I'm strongly opposed to, but it hasn't come up) -- but what else does and doesn't qualify? For example, I took him to Chipotle a couple of weeks ago. That's surely a fast-food chain, but it's a fairly high-quality chain. He's had a ton of pizza, and I can't seem even to remember whether any of it was at multiple-establishment pizzerias. We went to a mall awhile back and had Chick-fil-A. I love Chick-fil-A and think that, while it's a chain, you get a better product there than you get at most non-chain restaurants serving that style of food. There's also some non-chain food we've fed him that has been terrible -- like way below McDonald's quality level -- such as at diners and buffets while on the road. You get the idea. The category definitions make it hard to answer.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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37 & 1/2. Yes by then the body will be able to handle the onslaught it would have to endure every time it is confronted with assembly line food.

A word of advice. Your children often look at your reaction to things. If you shrug your shoulders and say OK lets go eat Mc Donalds then they are learning to shrug their shoulders and eat Mc Donlads.

If you say "no way we can do better than this." They are going to have it reinforced in there pyschy that yes you can do better.

Let's face it sooner or later they will pass through those Golden Arches. I would think it better they faced this with you and you could set an example to the good things that can be had in such situations.

Your challenge now shapers of the future is to find the good in such places and making that next generation aware of what is available in a bad situation.

*you have 90 minutes and the winner gets to explain to everyone else there are no winners just survivors. Your time starts...when ever you want it to start, your adults, just make sure ya start*

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Children have always received their first mental conditioning from their parents (mostly mothers), then from the larger society and their peers. It's only within the last fifty years that large corporations have increasingly devoted their full resources to invading the home and taking over the instruction of the young, conditioning them to band together as peer groups whose values are injected straight into their brains by professional salesmen.

I'm glad I'm not raising a small child. Especially if you live in a major city, how do you raise children with rational values without making them social eccentrics or even outcasts? It's a major challenge to grow up a well person in a sick society; I don't have any answers that are more than just fiddling around the fringes.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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The introduction to McDonald's was made to my (now 15-year-old) daughter when she was about two-and-a-half years old.

We lived in a small town that had no real cultural or social activities going on, so I looked for some sort of Mom and Me group to join. The one that existed met in the next town over in the McDonald's which had a PlayPlace in it.

It was not the food, it was the socialization that it offered, believe it or not. :huh:

My son (now 13) first went to McDonald's when we lived in a rural area of North Carolina. The closest preschool for his sister was a forty-five minute drive into a larger city, which we did twice a week. While waiting for his sister at school, there were two-and-a-half hours to use somehow. I do not like malls very much, so we split the time between the library and McDonald's. Could I have taken him to a park instead? Maybe, but then again I'm not a rah-rah let's go hike sort of person so for much of the school year when it was cold out I would not really consider that as an option.

The fast-food places that aim at children's repeat business offer not only desirable prizes with the food but also a free-form socialization that does not occur in as many places as it used to here.

As far as Chili's, Bennigan's, Subway, and all the other range of non-indie restaurants and grouping, I decide based on taste. If there is a lurking aftertaste of oversalt and heaviness lurking on one's palate even the next day after repeatedly brushing one's teeth and even trying to douse in wine, beer, and coffee, then no matter what the place is dressed up like, to me it has entered the Family of McD's, so to speak. Sometimes a chain starts off one way, then alters the corporate recipes so that it does slip unexpectedly into this family. The only difference is that there is table service and the pricepoint is higher and there is pretense made that indeed you are eating "real" food in a "nice" place.

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The fast-food places that aim at children's repeat business offer not only desirable prizes with the food but also a free-form socialization that does not occur in as many places as it used to here.

In my neighborhood, in the early evening, I see tons of mothers with their young ones stopping off at McDonalds for an early dinner, and of course it's an easy way to get the kid fed after his after school activities on the way home to change him for bed.

At mid-day and after school, I see the McDonalds full of 14-15-16-17-18 year olds kids who gather there for lunch and socialization on a daily basis.

Whether or not they were the kids who started there in their early years, or just picked it up for the jr. high and high-school years, that pattern puts a lot of bad eating habits, and many years of bad nutrition such as excessive cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium, into these kids.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Yes, I agree. The thing is either to have a good balance (which obviously many do not) of eating "healthy" things, or to have other options available in our society that will both assuage the need while meeting the criteria this group is seeking.

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Quite early - probably before 1 year old. Once a week, we eat drivethru on our way elsewhere.

The munchkin started with a few fries as a supplement to the dinner we'd packed, then slowly worked up to half an order of ... well, we drove into the line one day and munchkin brightly announced "Tsicken!". Now its "Chicken Fry! I want French fries and Chicken fry!". Which is interesting, because "hangaburgers" are another favorite, but not yet from a drivethru.

This seems to have caused no limmediate harm. The salt addiction is gone (we went thru a phase where EVERYTHING even vaguely savory had soysauce added to it), favorite fruits and veggies are still favorites, etc. So far, the munchkin has not requested we go to a drivethru, despite apparent enjoyment when we do. This surprises me and I expect the omission to be corrected soon.

editted to correct spelling for proper representation of pronunciation.

Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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The first time my guy had fast food was on a road trip - we'd stopped at a Taco Bell along the highway and he had a few bites from a bowl of Pintos and Cheese. I think he was about 1. His first exposure to McDonald's was courtesy of his grandma when he was 2 1/2 - not that I'm especially opposed to it but it's just not a place we go. His favorite fast food is Subway - that's our standby mall or road trip lunch, and the only fast food he actually asks for. He also likes Qdoba.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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Although I don't eat at McDonalds, or any other fast food establishment, I have no particular objection to others doing so.

In fact, my de facto grandson, (who will be four next week), has enjoyed McD's Happy Meals one or two times a week for the past couple years. I will note that, without prodding, he often orders it with sliced apple rather than fries.

However, I do find it disturbing that we seem to simply accept as fact that our next generation of citizens, or the current one for that matter, are so brainwashed that they are unable to be entrusted with the elemental task of feeding themselves, or others, in a responsible, healthy manner.

Perhaps, our medical and engineering accomplishments having virtually eliminated most of the traditional means of premature death, this is Nature's one final attempt at subjecting our species to the "Law of Natural Selection"?

SB :unsure:

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Assuming you are a foodie, and your son takes after you, he probably won't appreciate McDonald's for very long. So you might as well take him now. McDonald's was my favourite place to eat when I was small. Believe me, it didn't last.

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Children have always received their first mental conditioning from their parents (mostly mothers), then from the larger society and their peers. It's only within the last fifty years that large corporations have increasingly devoted their full resources to invading the home and taking over the instruction of the young, conditioning them to band together as peer groups whose values are injected straight into their brains by professional salesmen.

Although not specifically on topic, there was a very interesting article published on the CNN website a few days ago"

Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

In comparing identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and plain wrappers, the unmarked foods always lost.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

article

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My lad was also about 2 1/2 I believe. He got invited to a birthday party there. For a couple of years he went nuts for the place, then it seemed to taper off. Now at almost 15, given a choice he'll always choose something other than McDonalds.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I would have to say about 2-3 ish, too. My husband and I don't eat at McDonald's very often, maybe twice a year, but my mom took our son to the Playplace as a treat when he was wee. Often, they would get an ice cream cone, and hang out at the Playplace all afternoon. I liked it, it was something they had 'together' that we, his parents, didn't do. Now, at the ripe old age of 9, he has dinner and a movie dates with his grandma, and often the dinner of choice for them is McDonalds. Quite the treat for both of them!

Same with other places. Wendy's is our very late night option, maybe once every 3 months. Taco Bell is my son's and my guilty pleasure. Once every few weeks, I'm like "screw Daddy, we're getting dinner at the Bell *gigglegiggle*" and we go, gleefully ignoring Daddy's disdain. He HATES Taco Bell. It's been our little lighthearted rebellion for a few years, now.

When it's a treat, and not a normal 5 meals a week kind of plan, fast food is a-ok, in my book. I like that places now offer different choices with the meals, both kids and adults. I think that's one thing that's gotten us back to these places. I like that he gets apple slices and chicken nuggets. I like that I can go to Wendy's and get a burger, lemonade and a salad. I recognize that it's still not the greatest most nutritionally sound haute cuisine, but every meal doesn't have to be perfect.

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Two beliefs I try to bear in mind when thinking about these sorts of decisions:

1. Kids are highly susceptible to the forbidden fruit phenomenon. I have seen, time and again, enforced health-food regimes backfiring against parents. So one thing I promised myself was that, as a parent, I'd never allow any edible food to acquire forbidden fruit status.

2. Most "unhealthy" foods are harmless in moderation. Eating McDonald's every day: probably not a great idea from a nutrition standpoint. Eating McDonald's once a month: who cares? As part of an overall healthful diet, there's plenty of room for occasional junk.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Most "unhealthy" foods are harmless in moderation. Eating McDonald's every day: probably not a great idea from a nutrition standpoint. Eating McDonald's once a month: who cares? As part of an overall healthful diet, there's plenty of room for occasional junk.
True, but rare. The burgeoning pattern is McDonald's one day, a pizza from the freezer the next, and, as a special treat, Taco Bell the day after that. We're raising a whole generation of Fat Guys who won't live to make a career of it. :biggrin:

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I cannot agree more, Fat Guy.

when I did daycare, we had a couple of kids allowed candy truly once a year. (Halloween)

They attacked the candy like hogs to slaughter, it was kinda sad.

my son gets one candy, once a week, and trust me, it's not killing him. :raz:

as far as fast food, He was older, maybe four, and he will turn eight next week.

I've kept pretty much to the same shedule I always had, once a month, no supersizing (He gets the regular kids meal, not the big/mighty kids meal, and milk to drink.

I just make sure that the next thing he eats that day is fruit, pretzel sticks, a low fat yogurt, well, you get the drift.

Eating, like most of living, is all about the balance.

---------------------------------------

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When my sons were little-little, we lived in Modesto, California. Such good food coming out of the earth, and most of the women I knew refused to make it for their kids. My oldest, now 19, loved the McDonald's that his friend's mother took them to because of the trains that went by hourly. My younger had a Chicken Nugget there once, got hold of a nasty piece of clear filler-gunk, and to this day, remembers how horrified his 3 year old self was to find such a horrible thing in his beloved chicken. They never really liked going to birthday parties at Burger King, either, and refused to eat the food, which made more than one of the Modesto Moms angry -- "such picky children." They make me proud (snif). (BTW, they were never rude about it -- just said, "no thanks, just a drink.")

When we lived in Atlanta, it was Chik-Fil-A or Sonic, once a month; Sonic really is good stuff, and I used to get cravings for Chik-Fil-A. They really can't stand McDonald's food, or Burger King, and together hit a Wendy's a few months ago to see if it was all they remembered (it wasn't). They'd rather eat at a diner, or sushi, or at one of the delis here.

As we get ready for our road trip to take the Firstborn to college (University of Tampa -- Bern's -- Warm weather -- woo hoo!), he's asked that we find Sonics along the route. He said we can wait until we get there to eat at Chik-Fil-A, since there's one on campus.

Funny thing is, the times I've tried to eat fast food, it doesn't taste like it did back when I was a teenager. It tastes fake to me.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Two beliefs I try to bear in mind when thinking about these sorts of decisions:

1. Kids are highly susceptible to the forbidden fruit phenomenon. I have seen, time and again, enforced health-food regimes backfiring against parents. So one thing I promised myself was that, as a parent, I'd never allow any edible food to acquire forbidden fruit status.

Bingo. I'm grateful for those kids who've been forbidden food; they come to my house and take care of the leftover Oreos and Halloween candy. And most of their parents claim that their kids "don't like that stuff." Hoo boy.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Our son will be two on Friday and, like your son Geoff, pretty much just eats what we eat. The problem I'm having with answering your question, though, is that the definitions are a bit difficult to pin down. I understand that McDonald's is the archetype -- and no, our son hasn't had McDonald's yet (it's not something I'm strongly opposed to, but it hasn't come up) -- but what else does and doesn't qualify? For example, I took him to Chipotle a couple of weeks ago. That's surely a fast-food chain, but it's a fairly high-quality chain. He's had a ton of pizza, and I can't seem even to remember whether any of it was at multiple-establishment pizzerias. We went to a mall awhile back and had Chick-fil-A. I love Chick-fil-A and think that, while it's a chain, you get a better product there than you get at most non-chain restaurants serving that style of food. There's also some non-chain food we've fed him that has been terrible -- like way below McDonald's quality level -- such as at diners and buffets while on the road. You get the idea. The category definitions make it hard to answer.

I'm thinking of stuff that isn't particularly good for you if eaten regularly, and which a foodie-oriented adult would probably rather avoid. But whose kids might want to eat there quite often. And yeah, this is not the sole domain of fast food chains by any means.

What I had in mind were the big burger, fried chicken, subs, taco etc. chains with large advertising budgets.

Chipotle and Chik-fil-A haven't made their way up here, so I can't comment. I'm trying to think of a Canadian example of a chain with better quality food. I suppose Swiss Chalet (rotisserie chicken and ribs) might qualify - although the few times I've had to eat there I did not enjoy it at all. Il Fornello is a Toronto area chain that recently announced either an all organic or all local menu. But I don't think there are very many of them outside TO.

But regardless of what you wannt to include in the definition of fast food, I'm just curious about when you introduced your kids to it, what were the circumstances etc. Honestly, I'd rather my kid not major-chain fast food at all. We're lucky to have lots of other options near us.

And while there's the forbidden fruit angle to this, there's also the not missing what you don't know.

And, happy birthday to your little guy!

cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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Assuming you are a foodie, and your son takes after you, he probably won't appreciate McDonald's for very long. 

Ooh, I don't know about that. I mean the word "appreciate". Yeah, McDonalds went through a couple of years when the food was re-heated disgustingness, but when you get a fresh hamburger, they are great. I'm a foodie, and I love the taste of a lot of McDonald's items, and other fast, junky food. But for health and diet reasons, I don't let myself indulge that often. Now, I divert my always-at-the ready desire for a Black Angus Bacon Burger to the local sushi joint. And I save fast food for a treat. (And it really p-sses me off when I get an old, stale burger or something - when I have it, I want one of the fresh, bursting with grease ones.)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Each parent obviously makes their own choices when it comes to child-rearing but for me, plain ol' common sense ruled the day.

I can't remember when I first took each of my three kids to a fast-food joint. Maybe under a year old; maybe much older. It just wasn't an issue or a big deal either way.

I don't see those places as the "Great Satan." I see them as an option to be used occasionally if the situation warrants. Maybe on a road trip. Maybe for a birthday party. Maybe a quick swing-through if the soccer game lasted far too long.

None of our family eats often in any of them...probably no more than a few times a year. It's not something we ever made a habit of, but like I said, it ain't the Great Satan either.

The thing I don't get is seeing parents with children in ANY restaurant letting the kids suck down soda after soda after soda.

Speaking of crap that's bad for you.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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