In the great debate over the McDonald's Happy Meal, picking sides is harder than it seems.
Do you go after McDonald's, which tries to entice kids into eating greasy food by including a Barbie or a Hot Wheels in its Happy Meals? Who, afterall, doesn't deserve a junky treat every now and then?
Or, do you side with McDonald's? The company calls recent attacks on the marketing of its Happy Meal insulting and over-the-top. They have a point. Last month the Center for Science in the Public Interest likened McDonald's to the "stranger in the playground handing out candy to children."
McDonald's says parents are the ones who ultimately decide what their children can or cannot eat.
But do they?
In a world saturated with marketing messages, it's tougher and tougher to convince your kids that carrots, apples and raisins really are better than a Happy Meal.
In a Chicago Tribune story Thursday, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle said McDonald's aggressive marketing may have been fine when it was "considered a family treat (once a year on birthdays) and childhood obesity was a rare phenomenon."
Those days are over. McDonald's is now a staple for many families and about one-third of all children are overweight or obese.
Marketing by McDonald's has already worked its magic. It's time to dial it back.
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