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Mc Donalds slammed by health groups in a joint letter


heidih
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I just noticed a news story about Mc Donalds being sent a letter by a group of over 500 "health concerned" groups including some pretty heavy hitters in the health field, criticizing their menu as a major factor in children's poor diets.

Here is the link.

I find this such a gross waste of energy on the part of the various groups. We have discussed, perhaps ad nauseum, that parents make choices. Yes, children may clamor for Happy Meals because the toys are popular, but in my experience they often grab the toy and leave half the food - cuz really it is not that good especially if there is tasty food in the home. That is just the nature of marketing. They also like the play area - and often I see parents just get them a soft cone as a treat and let them play till exhausted. Rarely have I seen a child consider "Micky D's" a culinary destination.

My vent and rant - thoughts?

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And the kids aren't just after the Happy Meals.

I am not doubting your veracity but curious how you would be confident in that statement - perhaps you mean not the Happy Meal itself ? But here is something about the whole experience- the parent sets it up as the treat, if there is time they can play in the really quite cool playground etc. Like being a good kid eons ago and getting to go to the ice cream truck when it passed around the block. There was probably ice cream in our freezer at all times but we craved the novelty and special nature of the treat/event.

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Well, if you're a health group, what else do you do ? They have a point - as we who know food know, McD's menu doesn't present an overall balanced diet - it's heavy on frying & salt & low on roughage.

I know how often I think it's OK to drop by for a sausage muffin. The Japanese school system teaches kids a whole lot about nutrition - the importance of eating a variety of foods & that in balance; which foods are which and what health implications they have. Back in the British school system we never had that or anything like it - you only really studied anything about eating & cooking if you took the option of 'Home Economics'.

What percentage of the American public understands applied nutrition, e.g. how to eat to be healthy ? And what percentage of kids are born to parents who don't ? If mass marketing mens "everyone goes to McDonalds", then what better way to improve the public's eating habits than by pressuring them about their menu ? It still sticks in my craw that they never even offered such a thing as a salad until, what ? Ten years ago ?

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Gah, what a complete waste of time.

Let's break it down:

McDonalds, along with many other kinds of food, does not represent a healthy balanced diet.

However, people have free will. They are entitled to eat whatever they damn well want.

Ergo, berating McDonalds will not stop people from being unhealthy/fat/basing their entire diet on fried food and fizzy drinks.

These health groups would spend their time a lot more constructively by trying to come up with some kind of educational campaign that people will actually listen to. Personally I think it needs to be non-irritating, non-condescending and positive. I don't know, reminding people how awesome they would feel if they ate a tonne of veggies with their meals everyday. Letting them know that they don't have to give up burgers and fries, but how about going for a regular size and making the next meal after the burger something light and tasty like soup and salad?

Even if McDonalds suddenly throw up their arms and go "That's it - we are causing all these people to be fat! So we're stopping as from now and you can only by salad at McDonalds!", there will still be deep fried foods, fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, ice cream, etc. in the world. You have to change people's mindsets, because you cannot force them to eat things they don't want to. You can only suggest to them things that they might like to try, because it could make them feel a lot better.

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... you cannot force them to eat things they don't want to. You can only suggest to them things that they might like to try...

That's a bit reductive, isn't it ? I mean, you could always shunt them all into a big hole in the ground and bury them. Or reduce healthcare cover and let them die of their "self-inflicted" health problems. Or any number of other things.

It's fair to say - as I know from the hard-won experience of a mis-spent youth - that one surefire way to render yourself unable to shit is to eat all or mostly McDonald's for a week. Does the medical profession have statistics for the link between coronary seizures and constipation ? Ultimately, the best way to influence people's eating habits is to fix in their minds that link: McDonald's... and shit.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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... you cannot force them to eat things they don't want to. You can only suggest to them things that they might like to try...

That's a bit reductive, isn't it ? I mean, you could always shunt them all into a big hole in the ground and bury them. Or reduce healthcare cover and let them die of their "self-inflicted" health problems. Or any number of other things.

It's fair to say - as I know from the hard-won experience of a mis-spent youth - that one surefire way to render yourself unable to shit is to eat all or mostly McDonald's for a week. Does the medical profession have statistics for the link between coronary seizures and constipation ? Ultimately, the best way to influence people's eating habits is to fix in their minds that link: McDonald's... and shit.

I didn't mean it to sound as if nothing at all can be done. What I mean to say is that getting rid of McDonalds or berating McDonalds to serve healthier food will not stop people from eating crap. The only thing you can do is repeatedly remind people that there is a better way to live that will make them feel better.

Now you can do that by telling people McDonalds is terrible for them and will make them fat and have heart failure. That's one way. Or you can say to them "Look how great you will feel if you eat this instead". That's another way. Or you can gross them out with nasty but true things that happen when you eat a lot of fast food, as you suggest. These are all ways to educate people about the real risks of a poor diet and the benefits of a good one.

And this, I feel, is the key point. It's about education. Give people the knowledge to make good choices. Even better, give them the knowledge and skills to eat healthily most of the time and still be able to enjoy less healthy foods in small quantities every now and then without it impacting on their health.

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I'm with Blether. In Canada, you get the barest minimum of food education, even if you do take Home Ec, and you're left with your parents to help you along with good food choices. I was lucky in that since my folks are old hippies and insisted that each meal be more than 50% veggies, but most kids don't have that. Down here in Ecuador, there's an entire compulsory class called "Healthy Eating" that kids take from about grade 3 to grade 8 which explains various dietary choices, nutrition, and healthy cooking and meal planning. The result? Less than 10% of Ecuadorians are overweight. And this is a culture which absolutely adores fried piggie parts! (Chugchucara, anyone?)

We have Micky D's here (albeit, we have two McDonalds restaurants - one in Quito and one in Guayaquil) and they're almost exclusively the haunt of tourists. Locals know they can have much tastier stuff and more of it, much more inexpensively, and at the same speed, in the little nameless fixed-menu restaurants that are all over the place. Because they've been educated about the traditional diets and how to choose healthy things, Ecuadorians crave the fresh soup, rice-veg-meat plate, and fresh fruit juice when the hunger hits them. Sure, the local burger joints do a booming business, but it's occasional eaters.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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It’s not MD’s food that’s making our kids fat. It’s the misbalance of the calories-in/calories-out equation.

There’s nothing nutritionally wrong with the food served at McDonald’s. Nothing wrong with an occasional cheeseburger and fries. If one has a breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, a lunch of falafel and salad and then a cheeseburger for dinner, I would consider that day’s intake to be pretty well-balanced. (And really, should all restaurants offer all things? Should Dunkin’ Donuts offer broiled fish?)

I have a nutrition background and a lot of interest in this topic. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that regarding human physiology, there are WAY too many variables involved when deciding what one should and shouldn’t eat. But I do believe that a diet high in refined carbs and too little fat will contribute to the tendency to overeat; and there’s more and more evidence that saturated fat isn’t the boogie man we’ve made it out to be. So MD's for lunch, IMO, is a much better choice than Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. Yet MD's is the one continuously getting beat up. I would argu that the typical public school lunch, with its emphasis on highly processed foods and stuff like fat-free yogurt made with HFCS, is just as bad, if not worse.

MD’s has been around since the 60’s, with little change in their offerings. Kids today are fatter because they aren’t nearly as active as they use to be.

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MD’s has been around since the 60’s, with little change in their offerings. Kids today are fatter because they aren’t nearly as active as they use to be.

The food offerings may be similar, but the portion sizes have grown enormously. Considering that the average "combo" meal comes standard with a medium fries and medium drink, pairing it with a small is not an option, unless you order all three separately. Sure, you could choose just to eat half of the fries and drink half of the drink, but then that "waste not, want not" mantra that our parents (at least my parents) drilled into me from early childhood kicks in and I feel compelled to finish it (which I don't always do).

I often feel silly doing it, but I sometimes order off the kids menu because I know the portion sizes will be a bit more appropriate for this type of food.

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MD’s has been around since the 60’s, with little change in their offerings. Kids today are fatter because they aren’t nearly as active as they use to be.

Obviously it does have an effect and is excellent for health, but I don't think it's the exercise that's the key point here (It's much easier to cut calories through diet than through exercise). Do you not think one of the main factors is that people eat at McDonalds and other fast food places (and eat the equiavalent at home) a lot more regularly these days? Whereas in the past it was more of a treat?

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"And this, I feel, is the key point. It's about education. Give people the knowledge to make good choices."

The problem is, people choose their education they same way they choose their diets. They think that the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Science, and all the people who actually spent ten college years studying food, nutrition, and health are just a bunch of pointy head hippy intellectuals bent on taking away our rights.

"What have I told you about diet and exercise? Exercise is irrelevant…. "How do you know all this?" One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into "food desserts" and saying, "This is why people are fat," I know it’s not true. "Rush, do you really believe that? It’s that simple to you, liberals lie?" Yes, it is, folks. Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy. Very, very simple. Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn’t. I’d just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out." - Rush Limbaugh. Thirty million listeners eat his stuff up every day.

~35% of the US population is obese. That's more than the ~33% who are "merely" overweight. Throw in the 6% who are morbidly obese(BMI greater than 40) and that only leaves about 1/4 of Americans whose diet matches their caloric needs.

Our society has grown up on a continuous sugar(actually HFCS) high watching thousands of hours of cartoons deliberately packaged with Ronald McDonald and a ton of other carefully researched social engineering cues designed to sell sizzle as steak. We are as conditioned as Pavlov's dogs to accept commercial messages.

We think "infotainment" actually means something, and have collectively lost the ability to recognize other such oxymorons - "Happy Meals", everyone.

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MD’s has been around since the 60’s, with little change in their offerings. Kids today are fatter because they aren’t nearly as active as they use to be.

Obviously it does have an effect and is excellent for health, but I don't think it's the exercise that's the key point here (It's much easier to cut calories through diet than through exercise). Do you not think one of the main factors is that people eat at McDonalds and other fast food places (and eat the equiavalent at home) a lot more regularly these days? Whereas in the past it was more of a treat?

I agree that MD's use to be a treat and now it's a regular occurrance. And I agree that portion sizes have increased dramatically. But I still maintain that the nutritional makeup of the food itself isn't all that bad for you.

I agree that cutting calories is a more effective means to losing weight than what we today consider "exercise". Exercise that consists of maybe a half hour on a treadmill three times a week. But when I sold my car I lost 10 pounds with no other changes. All of that walking adds up. When I sat down and figured it out, I realized I was logging in between 20 and 30 miles of brisk walking per week. Every week. Consistently. And when kids are playing outside rather than sitting in front of the computer? It was a similar scenario. In the summer I remember heading out the door in the morning and hearing mom yell "be home by 5 for dinner!". My day was filled with hours at the pool, street games, swings, basketball...That has a HUGE impact on calories burned and no adult exercise routine could compare.

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And I do agree that Americans have been getting fatter, but I also know that the definition for "obese" has been changing, people who were in the normal range in 1960 ago are now overweight and those who were overweight are now considered obese. Obesity is now defined in relation to health risk wheras in the past it was defined in relation to the norm.

Some stats:

•The average weight for a 10 year-old-boy in 1963 was 74.2 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 85 pounds.

•The average weight for a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was 77.4 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 88 pounds.

•A 15-year-old boy weighed 135.5 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight of a boy that age increased to 150.3 pounds.

•A 15-year-old girl weighed 124.2 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight for a girl that age was 134.4 pounds.

According to the report, average heights for children increased as well over the past four decades. For example:

•The average height of a 10-year-old boy in 1963 was 55.2 inches; by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old boy had increased to 55.7 inches.

•The average height of a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was about 55.5 inches; by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old girl had increased to 56.4 inches.

•In 1966, the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 67.5 inches or almost 5'7½"; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 68.4 or almost 5'8½".

•In 1996, the average height of a 15-year-old girl was 63.9 inches; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old girl had not changed significantly (63.8 inches).

So weight has increased in kids, but not as dramatically as the media makes it out to be. And part of that weight increase can be offset by increases in height. And BTW, average life expectancy in 1960 was 67 years. Today it's 77 years.

Much ado about nothing IMO.

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With another look at the question, Alexandra Petri from the Washington Post weighs in:

It's true, the child obesity debate has always been a difficult one. Difficult is an understatement.

I know of three things that do not exist: a unicorn, Santa Claus and an unproblematic way of telling your child to lose weight. My mother once frowned in my general direction while I happened to be standing near a scale, and my body image has yet to recover. Obesity is one of the most fraught issues imaginable. . . .

and

Only someone with the approval rating of Michelle Obama could dare to tackle the obesity epidemic. And she’s come under fire for even such a calculatedly inoffensive statement as “Let’s move.”

“Michelle Obama is telling America we’re fat,” everyone shrieks, flinging kale and allegations at her.

If even that’s controversial, then, forget it! The only thing most Americans seem capable of moving is the finger of blame, now aimed squarely at poor Ronald.

This is like blaming a video store for illiteracy. “How dare you sell products that we want to buy more than books!” we hiss. “This is all your fault!” Well, no, it’s not. The way to get people to read more is not to stop advertising and selling video games, just as the way to prevent people from having extramarital affairs with their housekeepers is not to ban housekeeping.

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^ Amen!

And this from Paul Campos in The Obesity Myth:

"From the perspective of a profit-maximising medical and pharmaceutical industry, the ideal disease would be one that never killed those who suffered from it, that could not be treated effectively, and that doctors and their patients would nevertheless insist on treating anyway. Luckily for it, the American health care industry has discovered (or rather invented) just such a disease. It is called "obesity". Basically, obesity research in America is funded by the diet and drug industry - that is, the economic actors who have the most to gain from the conclusion that being fat is a disease that requires aggressive treatment. Many researchers have direct financial relationships with the companies whose products they are evaluating."

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^ Amen!

And this from Paul Campos in The Obesity Myth:

"From the perspective of a profit-maximising medical and pharmaceutical industry, the ideal disease would be one that never killed those who suffered from it, that could not be treated effectively, and that doctors and their patients would nevertheless insist on treating anyway. Luckily for it, the American health care industry has discovered (or rather invented) just such a disease. It is called "obesity". Basically, obesity research in America is funded by the diet and drug industry - that is, the economic actors who have the most to gain from the conclusion that being fat is a disease that requires aggressive treatment. Many researchers have direct financial relationships with the companies whose products they are evaluating."

Are you being serious or is this a joke?

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I find it at least in the realm of serious with respect to the product affiliation statement.

I told my 19 year old slender son about the topic yesterday and he had an interesting perspective:

"Mom, I am not average, I am probably underweight. I am not that interested in food as a comfort. For most of the guys I know, though they do not crave the food, it becomes a default, a habit - so to that extent having it as the answer in childhood can continue into adulthood" He makes a point.

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Can we factor in the fact that Americans spend more hours working than anyone else? And that working means, for most people, sitting at a computer? Under increasing amounts of stress? That we have little time left over for shopping and cooking? I think that if we have an obesity "epidemic" -- a word I hate because it implies you can catch it and if you can, then you can probably catch it from fat people -- then the epidemic has to be considered within the environment that spawned the virus?

Going back up to the post by the person whose mother and scale are forever fixed in her mind, they are also forever fixed in my mind and it was much more than a glance -- I have a real problem with Michelle Obama and the subject of obesity. Because she links it with a weight problem of her daughter's. And all I can think of is that poor, poor kid. Imagine your mother + scale problem in a national arena . . .

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Interesting perspective on mother daughter weight and memories.

My spouse is fat. I am not. Whenever we disagreed about our daughter's diet, habits, etc, I would simply say: "look at you, look at me. My rules." It seems to work.

(on the other hand, its his rules re music. Same logic).

I think the health groups should use their time more wisely.

No one forces anyone to eat or order at McDs.

Its a cheap and ineffective shot.

"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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It’s not MD’s food that’s making our kids fat. It’s the misbalance of the calories-in/calories-out equation.

There’s nothing nutritionally wrong with the food served at McDonald’s. Nothing wrong with an occasional cheeseburger and fries.

(I dunno what happened there...)

McD's hamburgers are crap. There's nothing wrong with a good hamburger made with good ingredients, and real fries made with good ingredients. They're not the sort of thing you should eat every day, unless you work physically hard, but still good food. The problem with McD's is that it has corrupted people's sense of taste. A friend of ours was doing some work at our house and asked for a burger, so I got him a delicious handmade burger with good beef, homegrown tomatoes and lettuce, a quality bun, etc., and he couldn't eat it because it didn't taste like McDs. He had literally never had a real hamburger before and he didn't like it. He wanted the crap.

Education in the schools would be a start.

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And I do agree that Americans have been getting fatter, but I also know that the definition for "obese" has been changing, people who were in the normal range in 1960 ago are now overweight and those who were overweight are now considered obese. Obesity is now defined in relation to health risk wheras in the past it was defined in relation to the norm.

So weight has increased in kids, but not as dramatically as the media makes it out to be. And part of that weight increase can be offset by increases in height. And BTW, average life expectancy in 1960 was 67 years. Today it's 77 years.

Much ado about nothing IMO.

Not sure I agree (although kids are taller now, so their weights have gone up proportionally)...I belong to a YMCA in a very middle class area. There are a lot of kids in the facility and I see plenty of overweight kids (usually with overweight parents). It makes me want to scream, I've seen 6 year old kids holding onto giant bottles of Gatorade almost as big as they are, their parents have no clue. You can't blame McD's for providing a product that the marketplace clearly demands, but maybe if the kids get some nutritional education they will bring it home to the rest of the family. It's so much easier to keep your weight normal and avoid health issues if you can at least start from a good place.

Edited by BeeZee (log)

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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