A not-so-Happy meal?

Published 9:49 pm Friday, August 13, 2010

As I was driving through Suffolk on my way to work the other day, I saw a mother and her two children sitting at a picnic table at the playground. They were laughing and playing, enjoying their lunches. And just what were they having for lunch? My keen eye for food — particularly the little red box that houses this masterpiece—assured me they were having none other than Happy Meals. And it was one of those scenes that always brings a smile to my face.

And I mention this joyous scene here, because I’ve been reading that there are certain parts of the country that want to have the Happy Meal and other kids’ meals in various restaurant chains banned from their menus.

As a move toward making children healthier in a country suffering from the epidemics of adult and childhood obesity, ideas like this might seem sensible. But is there really a need to limit what an establishment can serve or should the parents sitting and enjoying lunch with their youngsters teach them about moderation?

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I admit that this opinion is coming from a man who has enjoyed one or two, maybe six happy meals in one sitting back in the days when he was, in fact, allowed to eat food, but it just seems that choices shouldn’t be taken away. Instead options and counterbalances should be put into place by parents.

I know I would have been better informed if my parents had known and told me it would take roughly X number of sit-ups to burn off a single hamburger bun, I would have been a little more apt to choose a salad when I stepped to that giant board of wonder I call the McDonald’s menu.

But through nutrition classes presented and enforced as a result of my diabetes, I learned what parents can and should teach. It’s all right to enjoy a good thing in moderation, with the infusion of exercise and an overall healthy diet. It’s a concept that, if presented early and properly by parents, children can grasp and incorporate into their daily lives well into adulthood.

My main point here is that fast-food kids’ meals may be for children but parents should know how to present the happiness. There is no need to ban a good thing; just teach youngsters to enjoy them occasionally.

Besides, do we really want to live in a world where there’s no little red box for lunch, complete with a hamburger, some fries and an awesome Incredible Hulk action figure inside? I know I don’t.