Are Parents Pushing Fast Food Better Than TV Ads?

McDonald's kids toys christmas momSing it with me: Big Mac, Filet o' Fish, Quarter Pounder, French fry, icy Coke, thick shake, sundaes, and apple pie ...

Yes, I still remember this little McDonald's advertising jingle from my childhood. That marketing campaign is etched in my brain for eternity and so is the taste of those yummy French fries. When my kids and I occasion the drive-thru these days, I'm still overwhelmed by the comforting feeling I get from the wafting smell that bursts out the drive-thru window as it opens up to the inside.

While kids today are seeing more fast food ads than ever before -- preschoolers 21 percent more and older children 34 percent more ads from 12 popular fast food chains than in 2003 -- I really wonder if the fact that my kids love McDonald's has more to do with me than all the ads they see on TV.

Am I the real fast food pusher?


A new survey from Yale University reveals that 84 percent of parents say their kids have eaten fast food in the past 7 days. Sure, we can blame mass advertising campaigns, but who's driving up, placing an order in the familiar talking box, and then feeding the fast food to their kids? That would be us -- the parents -- 84 percent of us in the past 7 days.

Ads schmads. I'm pretty sure the fact that my kids love McDonald's has more to do with the marketing and nostalgia stuck in my brain than anything else. When we had McDonald's as kids, it was a fun night. An easy night. A stress-free "happy meal" for everyone. Sometimes we ate it in front of the TV. Sometimes we ate it when my dad was out of town. Sometimes while shopping at the mall. It was no-fuss hot meal simplicity. Will you listen to me? I'm a walking advertisement for the joint. And I've created that same fun vibe with my kids on McDonald's nights. Guilty as charged.

We don't eat fast food a lot, but it's because I know it's not healthy to do so, not because I don't think it tastes good. I mean, you wouldn't want to measure my giddy-o-meter the minute I plunk down a bag full of fries and cheeseburgers on the passenger seat and a super-carbonated soda in the drink holder. It's instant goodness, and sometimes it really is exactly what I want (sorry, Jamie Oliver). And don't try to slip some freaky "why are they so white?" apple slices in the bag instead of French fries because if we want apples, we'll eat the organic ones stacked in a bowl at home.

My kids know I love the occasional McDonald's. Cause I just can't hide it, and I worry the joy oozing out of my soul on McDonald's night is sending the wrong message.

Of course, at the same time, I hope that our home-cooked meals and seriously serious moderation of fast food intake is also apparent to them, as well as all the attention to pretty good nutrition and the health implication discussions we share as a family day to day. There's also the fact that my husband won't touch fast food (I think it's secretly cause he loves it, too), which creates a nice overall balance in our household.

What can I say? I'm a hypocrite to the tenth degree on this subject. While I wish there were healthier fast food options, I'm also not looking to McDonald's to provide them to me -- unless they can make those tiny cheeseburgers taste that good at half the calories ... Until then, I'll be waiting for something all new and tasty and good for us with a drive-thru to show up on every corner.

What do you teach your kids about fast food?


Image via firepile/Flickr


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