Fast Food for Thought

by on September 26th, 2010
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Recently I have found myself watching documentaries about food. For those of you who do not know, I am a total foodie: I watch Food Network every time I turn on the TV, I read articles on food, cooking, nutrition, school lunches, schools planting gardens, Men’s Health’s “Eat This, Not That” column, the First Lady’s initiatives on beating this obesity epidemic and the like. In addition to that, I am incredibly aware and interested in our country’s obesity epidemic. For those of you who have known me since I was a little kid, you might remember that my mother has worked for McDonald’s since she was 16 years old, long before my arrival. I would like to think that the exposure I have had to this corporation since I was old enough to recognize a golden arch and say “fren fry,” (Mom says we could not drive past a McDonald’s without stopping for a small fry once I could utter those words…) gives me a viewpoint that not all consumers have.

I watched “Food Inc.” for the third time this past month, as well as “Supersize Me,” and the lesser known “Hot Coffee.” All three of these documentaries shine some light on culpability and responsibility of both the consumer and the corporations. My mother, an employee of McDonald’s Corporate for over twenty five years, and currently a Director of Operations of a chain of franchise stores, has her own personal viewpoint on the responsibility of the company versus that of the consumer. Happy Meals now come with apples and milk, or fries and soda. I don’t know that she’s against having the option, but mandating that a fast food company serve apples and milk is definitely not something she supports. To some extent, I agree with her. Mandating what a company serves its customers is not right, but if the consumer will not act responsibly, is it the company’s responsibility to put the better choices in their face?

On the other hand, there are lawsuits against McDonald’s and other corporations serving similar food for making the defendants of these lawsuits obese. This is absolutely outrageous. How dare these people point their finger at a fast food restaurant that in no way forces you to drive through, order and eat their food, and return the next day for more. You have options people! There are salads, oatmeal, and yogurt parfait with fruit on the menu, and I would bet my bottom dollar that there is a Subway right around the corner with a 6 inch veggie sub calling your name. And may I be so bold as to suggest there’s probably a grocery store nearby too where you can buy food, go home and cook it! Nobody is forcing you to get a double quarter pounder and a supersize fry and soda. That is YOUR choice. I think it is truly shameful that people in this country are that sue-happy and irresponsible, that they are blaming corporations that serve food for their choices to eat too much of it.

With the obesity epidemic plaguing our population, we are all more aware now than ever that fast food is not good for you. Getting to a fast food joint and eating their food is definitely cheap and easy but it does not make a balanced diet. I am the first to admit I love fast food, McDonald’s specifically. I grew up literally in McDonald’s stores, be it sitting in the drive thru handing people their bags of food and drinks or getting chicken nuggets as a reward for hanging around while my mother worked to get a store open. I went to McDonald’s Christmas parties every year, with Ronald McDonald himself as a guest, I have a very early memory of the floor of my closet covered in McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. McDonald’s is embedded in my life and provided me with half of everything I’ve ever had. I used to eat it a lot, and am fortunate enough to have an insane metabolism and low cholesterol.

That said, as an adult now, who grew up with McDonald’s being thrown in my face everyday whether I ate it or just saw the golden arch pin on my mother’s lapel, I CHOOSE to indulge maybe once a week (okay, sometimes twice a week). I am so thin and am encouraged to “eat a cheeseburger” so often, that I am sure I could indulge more, but my internal health is so important to me, and it should be to everybody, that I do not. Fat and sugar is part of a balanced diet; your body needs it, for sure. But you are in control of how much and where that fat and sugar is derived from, and how often it comes from a fast food joint.

It’s time to start taking responsibility for ourselves. We’ve been so inundated with fast, affordable, easily accessible food that we’ve become lazy and irresponsible to ourselves, our health, our diets, and most importantly, our children. We have shows titled “Too Fat for Fifteen;” I just read an article about a third grade child being taken away from his mother because he weighs 200 pounds. Come on! These restaurants are out to make a buck, they are not out to provide you with the fruit and vegetables you need because they really want you to be an acceptable weight and feel good. That’s what the grocery store is for. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants, going out to dinner in general, as well as ice cream, chips, ding dongs and soda (or whatever your weakness is) are a treat; they are not intended for everyday, several times a day consumption.

McDonald’s is doing the responsible thing by realizing how often people are going to their restaurants and the health effects it is having, and they are offering you oatmeal, yogurt, apple slices, salads and water. Are we as consumers doing the right thing and choosing those options instead of a burger, fries and soda? Are we, as consumers doing the right thing for our children and driving by these joints and heading home to make a home cooked meal with the protein, starch, vegetables and glass of milk that is necessary? If we were, we would see a huge dive in the obesity epidemic and I bet we would see our children behaving better and doing better in school. The body and the brain require the nutrients it does because those are what makes them perform at their best.

Give yourself and your children a chance to perform at your and their best. Let’s get nutrition education into the normal curriculum of schools so we don’t see another generation become obese and in so many cases, diabetic. Let’s educate our children in our schools, and by example when we go home and cook vegetables and protein or serve them eggs and a banana in the morning. Show them how to do it so that they learn as they grow up and can do it for themselves. It might not prevent them from stopping at McDonald’s but it provides them the option. If McDonald’s Corporate is responsible enough to their consumers to make these decisions, evolve and change their fifty year old menu, and provide you the option from Hamburger University for people around the country and the world, who they have never met, can’t you be responsible enough to provide the options for yourself and your children?

Just a little fast food for thought!

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