The XX Factor

Leave the Happy Meal Alone

Santa Clara County, Calif., is considering a ban on toys in kids’ meals it considers inappropriately unhealthy -one that would cover all of McDonalds’ Happy Meal offerings, even the ones that replace fries with apples and caramel dip. Babble ‘s Madeline Holler (disclosure: I also write for Babble ) says the ban would ” signal that the grown-ups are in the room .” And here I thought I was the grown-up. Clearly, the Santa Clara County government disagrees.

Taking the toy out of the Happy Meal won’t change the meal, obviously, and has no direct effect on the caloric content of the treats in the brightly colored bag. The goal of banning the toys only in certain meals is to shift the kids’ clamoring to a healthier option (one that doesn’t yet exist at McDonalds) and to remove from me, the parent, the horrible burden of either saying no to McDonalds, or no to the less obviously healthy menu items. It’s kind of an interesting idea-no toy with the cheeseburger and fries, but here’s one with the grilled chicken and carrot sticks-but one that strikes at the core of my idea of the role of government in our personal lives. (Plus, I thought we weren’t supposed to bribe our kids . Does legislating the bribe make it better?) Healthier school meals fall within local governmental control; what my children and I eat on our own time should not. Learning to say no and to take no for an answer is part of learning to eat well. Until the New Hampshire government grants my petition for a ban on sales of cheddar Ruffles, I’m wholly dependent on my ability not to walk over to the store and buy a case. (Damn that Live Free or Die mentality.) Taking choices out of our hands isn’t the answer. In the long run, it might only add to the problem.