Not-so-happy meals for kids

The only way to really address the worldwide obesity and diabetes epidemic is to focus on our children.

China, for example, is having a very large problem with childhood obesity due to drastic changes in the way their younger generation is now eating.

In fact, China now has 300 million diabetics–that is practically the entire population of the U.S. And if we don’t do something drastic to change the situation, the healthcare system will be in serious trouble.

Yet, despite these dire circumstances, people are still opposed to making changes to the way kids eat. In fact, there is an entire “Happy Meal” debate waging right now.

The question being asked is, “Are you going to offer what children really want in kids’ meals? Or will you support those trying to fight the good fight and give the kids “healthier” options, much of which they leave on the table?”

Is it so wrong that they leave food on the table? Clearly with almost two thirds of our children being overweight or obese, they are eating somewhere; so what’s wrong with them leaving food on the table? Also, science tells us that a child must be introduced to a new food up to 25 times before they may start to enjoy it. How many parents actually know this, or have tried it?

But here’s the real catch to all of this in the end: What will actually happen when the fries have been eliminated and ingredients that make the food taste good have been taken away? And kids’ meals abound with plastic-tasting, pre-packaged veggies, apples, and yogurt (which if you ask me are still unhealthy).

The so-called “healthy” alternatives will be abandoned. Because they aren’t nearly as satisfying and don’t taste good. And sales will go down. Naysayers in the industry admit that restaurants will eventually return to the original “tasty” kids’ menu to stimulate new growth in sales (the restaurant industry certainly doesn’t care about growing waist lines!).

And it’s already happening. Even in schools. The Los Angeles school system changed its lunch menu to “healthier” offerings. But recently, the administration realized that sales of lunches had dropped to alarming levels, because students simply weren’t buying them. Therefore the school wasn’t making any money. Alarmingly, the kids reported that they didn’t buy lunch at school because the food on the new menu was not only tasteless, but a waste of money.

I have to ask…why give up so quickly?! And whose responsibility is it to make sure that we don’t?

Making our kids healthier shouldn’t be about the bottom line!

There is simply no reason why healthy food can’t taste good. The reason the “new-and-improved health foods” are tasteless is because they are following misguided low-fat, nutrition guidelines that don’t make any sense and certainly do not come from science.

The new “healthier” menus are devoid of anything rich and satisfying–like protein and saturated fat. And of course kids aren’t going to enjoy what’s “healthy” if all you give them are plastic, packaged veggies, apples, and yogurt!

What we need to do is to start having some real fun with healthy cooking and nutrition education. Look at all of the delicious recipes in my New Hamptons Health Miracle. And refocus on what’s fresh and local.

How about building a website where kids can type in the food he eats and see the nutrition information. Make a game out of knowing the real value of what he is eating.

Parents need to start teaching their kids about what’s healthy and what’s not from day one. Then they need to learn how to say no and stick to it. There is no reason for junk food to be in the home. Having healthier snack options is wise and the earlier you start, the greater your chance for ease and success in getting your child healthy.

Let’s give our kids some credit–if they know the reason they shouldn’t be eating something, it becomes a lot easier. I treat many children in my practice and the parents are often surprised by how well their child can stick to a dietary plan. It can be done and sadly enough it has to be.