by Greg on November 12, 2010

In one full swoop, the City of San Francisco has single-handedly wiped out the threat of childhood obesity in their city.

Empowered by the belief that parents are unable to make appropriate decisions when it comes to the health and nutritional well-being of their children, the city council decided to make their job easy by stripping toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals.

The rationale behind this plan is that without the toy incentive, a child’s desire to visit McDonald’s will vanish and they’ll revert to eating carrots and celery.

The supervisor who initiated the proposal said he did so because his daughter is in the 6-11 age group that has seen obesity rates skyrocket by more than 400% over the last 30 years. When he discovered that the Happy Meal was coincidentally introduced 30 years ago, he came to the only possible conclusion.

Forget the growing obsession over video games; forget the slashed funding for afterschool sports programs; forget the dizzying array of options on television. Forget the alarming decrease of allotted time for physical education in schools; forget that our food chain has seen a disturbing boost in trans fats, chemical additives, and sugars; and forget that parents still have the power to say “No.”

Forget all of that.

It’s the Happy Meal toy that deserves the bullseye.

I’m just wondering if this legislation is going to be enough. Sure, kids love a good toy with their Happy Meal, but this isn’t the only reason they beg, plead, stomp, and whine to go to McDonald’s. If we’re truly going to make a difference, if we’re truly going to rid children of their primal lust for the Golden Arches, we need to do more.

Here’s how I’d like to see the council’s proposal amended:

Change the Name
The “Happy Meal” name is far too jovial. It implies a sense of joy, bliss, pleasure, and fun. We can’t have that. Not if we’re going to dissuade kids from wanting one. Force them to change the name and we’re one step closer. After all, what child is going to ask for a McDonald’s Unhappy Meal?

Change the Colors
McDonald’s is a bright and cheery place with its signature red and yellow primary colors. The pretty flower gets the bee, so to speak, and the marketing psychology at play with these color choices is manipulative. The kids are the bees and McDonald’s has the nectar. Lose the colors and you lose their attention.

This is why I propose that McDonald’s be forced to change their colors to charcoal gray and dark charcoal gray. Remove the attraction and you remove the problem.

We'd have to do something about the trees, but you get the idea.

Change the Clown
Ronald McDonald has an incredible amount of energy. He brings with him an exhorbitant level of excitement, pep, and vigor. It’s appalling. We need to get him to tone it down a bit. It’s just a hamburger, dude, not the Ark of the Covenant. I propose we get a more apathetic spokesclown in place. Someone with a “Debbie Downer” kind of appeal who’s voice makes you sleepy, not frantic.

Think Ben Stein in clown paint.

Better yet, hire the Insane Clown Posse. I’m sure they’d be up for a gig and it’s the perfect way to keep kids away from the front door.

Here, Kiddy Kiddy.

Change the Playground
Toys? Gone. Colors? Gray. Clowns? Scary. It’s a start. But nearly every McDonald’s has a lavish PlayPlace to lure kids inside. How do you get there? By passing the food counter. How do you get out? By passing the food counter.

The PlayPlace is way too much fun and far too conveniently located to dissuade small minds from flocking to it. I propose that the entrance be modified into a tunnel and relocated so children have to crawl beneath the deep fryer to access it.

Change the Perception
Government officials need to understand that the demands made by children of Happy Meal age are either fostered or denied by the parents. Contrary to popular belief, Mom and Dad can say “No.” Parents can make sure their children eat McDonald’s in moderation.

Granted, many don’t, but rather than ban every possible temptation in an attempt to curb the urge, why not put more effort into nutritional education? Why not work with McDonald’s, rather than against them? The evidence shows that they’re willing and many think that McDonald’s has done an excellent job in providing consumers with more nutritional knowledge and facts about their food items.

This is why I propose that we change the perception that Happy Meals are the problem and point the finger elsewhere. There are lots of targets. And until 6- and 7-year old children drive their own vehicles to McDonald’s to spend their hard-earned money on Happy Meals without their parents’ knowledge, I believe the onus should be on us.

I do get the point behind the legislation. The concept is noble. But the strategy and execution just plain McSucks. You can’t take shots at the problem if you’re aiming in the wrong direction.

I must say, however, that after seeing the following Happy Meal toy, I’m not so sure we need to ban the toys. So long as we agree that this is the toy kids get. If nothing else, it’s indicative of the toll a steady diet of McDonald’s food has taken on the once slim and trim Ronald McDonald.

Of course, if all else fails, there’s always another alternative.

It’s called Burger King.


Bruna November 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Had to check out your blog. Couldn't stop laughing and couldn't agree with you more. Kids don't take themselves to McDonalds do they?

michellew_ November 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Yeah, but Burger King's toys McSuck!

Rob November 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

We are not fans of McDonald's thank god but for some reason I doubt not giving the toy out will help. It might for a small amount of people but for most they would go there no matter what. Not sure why because honestly from what I remember (5 yrs ago) the food isn't that good.

nicóle November 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm

What's next? Moving the sugary kids cerals up off of the floor-high up where they can't reach? What about the candy isle? Maybe when we go see a movie we won't be able to buy buttery popcorn. We'll have to settle for carrots instead.

Cheryl November 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I don't know why my kids like it so much. Maybe because we don't go often? I do agree though, getting rid of the toy won't really do much!

Miss Blondie November 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm

LMAO!! I couldn't agree with you more. I think to remove the toys and blame McD's is total BS. Why don't they just remove the prize in the cracker jack box and make us all suffer some more??

If you're kid has that much control over where you're going for dinner then you probably shouldn't be a parent. Learn to say no. And I bet those same parents who complain about the Happy Meal toys are the ones who bribe their kids with toys, cookies, and ice cream to get them to behave.

And I'm sorry but you can still be fat and not eat McDonalds.

Stacie @ The Divine November 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

This totally cracked me up. I think that I fell in love with you a little bit. 🙂

Miss Blondie November 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Oh and one more thing, my son is 9 so technically in "that" age group and could care less about the toy. Not to mention he's probably the only kid I've ever met who would rather their salads then the happy meals.

And people, you can get your kids apples and milk as substitutes in their happy meals!

Kim @ What's Th November 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I think that by removing all "temptation" you get:

a: back in the USSR

b: the inability to make actual decisions

Happy Meals are totally not the problem. The problem is that parents refuse to accept responsibility to TEACH their children.

What kind of children are we raising that rather than teach them how to deal with these things, we simply remove them? How does that equip them to make important life decisions?

ugh this bugs me…

Kassandra @ Coffee and their Kisses July 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I agree 100%

Lindsey@Kindred Spir November 12, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Oh my word, this is so funny. Not funny but funny – I can't believe they took the toys away! I don't like McDonalds anyway so this doesn't really affect us but it still is silly.

Nichol November 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Before I even read your post my head said, they'll just go to BK or Arby's or Wendy's. Toys do not matter, that is idiotic. Parents are going to give their kids a happy meal. toy or not. This is a great post.

Casey November 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

That's classic! It's definitely the playplace that attracts my kid…but she doesn't actually like the food. (except the apple juice and apple wedges) She won't touch their chicken nuggets or burgers. Lucky I don't have to fight her on this issue. 🙂

Deal-ectible Mom November 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

you are so funny Greg…very clever post. I always enjoy reading your blog!

Virginia from Lady V November 12, 2010 at 4:25 pm

If I could cyber high five you for this post, I would! My kids enjoy McDonald's about once every three months, if/when we are traveling. And it is definitely the fries that they like the most. Would they like to have it more often? Judging by their squeals of delight EVERY time I pass a set of golden arches… yes. But, they know that McDonald's is a "special treat" and we don't get special treats every day.

Brandy November 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I really hate how it's become okay to just blame everyone else for a problem instead of sucking up and realizing you're not perfect. Not going to lie, there are some toys (ex: Batman or Wrestling his absolute favorite things) that he will only want to go there to get the toy. We don't go EVERY single night and 9 times out of 10 he will take apple dippers over fries and he always wants milk. He's 6 years old and has only had soda maybe 10 times total, and usually the kid sized cups not adult sized.

But on a lighter note I did get quite the giggle out of this post!

Amanda November 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I don't agree with getting rid of the PlayPlaces. As disgusting and germ infested as they are, they're often the only place we parents in northern states that see snow and single digit temperatures can take our kids to burn off some energy in the winter. We've often taken the kids to the PlayPlace to burn off some energy before it gets crowded during the lunch rush. We are guilty of buying drinks, but we don't usually buy full meals at McD's. Just a coffee for the husband, and the least amount of evil we can get away with for the kids and I so the kids can work off some energy.

Put the toys back in the Happy Meals. Don't punish the kids like mine who don't go that often for the parental stupidity of some who take their kids to eat fast food too often. I was watching Good Morning America one morning, and they were talking about healthy eating guidelines for our kids. One of their suggestions was that families only eat fast food once a week. I was appalled. Once a WEEK? I think even that's too often.

My final thought (sorry for the rant): Is McDonald's going to lower the price of the Happy Meals now that there's no toy? I know I certainly wouldn't want to pay the same price for an item if a feature was removed. Or, are they going to make the portions larger to make up the cost? Then the whole purpose of removing the toy will be null and void. I bet a lot of people would stop going, or at least not go as often, if companies had to list ALL of the ingredients and caloric counts in each product on their menus, and on their packaging. I know a different restaurant we frequent has started putting the caloric counts on each dish on their menu, and they totally ruined chicken carbonara for me, even though we don't go there that often.

Kelly July 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Amanda, he was joking about removing the play places.

Paula@ Frosted Finge November 13, 2010 at 1:06 am

My kids don't care if it's McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's. They want a cheeseburger and fries. Do they ask me for toys there? All the time! They don't get happy meals when we go, though, because it's cheaper to do alternatives! Parents need to grow some balls and tell their children no! The government needs to back OFF!

Mary - Scentsy Indep November 13, 2010 at 4:29 am

I am appalled at this. Having a degree in Exercise Science & Sports Medicine, there is a lot of influence put on childhood obesity. Seriously. Seriously? Doing this proves a couple points:

1. Parents can't control their kids -or- they have no self control themselves.

2. I guess this guy thinks McDonald's food is no good if the thinks the only reason kids go there is for the toy. Granted, I would agree with him. We have been on a McDonald's boycott for a while now. Thank you Burger King & Wendy's!

3. Unless you take your children out to eat for every meal, the problem with childhood obesity is at home. Stop feeding your kids Little Debbie snack cakes and candy for breakfast. Stop buying foods full of empty calories and start feeding your children like they deserve to be fed! Ugh.

4. This guy obviously thinks the McDonald's toys are actually worth having. They are not. They only things these toys do is keep China in the toy-making business and fill our land-fills with non-biodegradable garbage. Wait — maybe this is a good thing after-all! Only kidding, of course.

So annoying. {Stepping off soapbox}

Mary - Scentsy Indep November 13, 2010 at 4:32 am

@ Amanda, I think McDonald's actually does put the nutrition information the packages of their products.

Melinda November 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm

You are just too funny. You would think Ronald is enough to scare anyone away and I agree that should be the toy. Then the child would have nightmares and scream when they see the golden arches. If they would just take the fries off the menu I would never have the desire to go there again. BTW am I the only adult that orders a Happy Meal? The toy being missing wouldn't affect my order…I McThink.

Josanne November 14, 2010 at 8:18 am

Hilarious post, as so many of yours are! Yep, we have a problem, but it doesn't start at McDonald's.

lisa November 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm

that was soooo funny, first time reading your blog……thanks for the laugh and the truth in a humerous way haha

Marisa @ I failed math July 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Too funny. I just did a post as well… What is irritating is that McDonald’s, with their bottomless marketing budget, would like to convince mom bloggers to hop on the wagon (which will be a wagon full of apples, of course).
Why, why, why would any blogger want to sell out to support them? Yes, it’s a healthier menu, but do they really, truly care about your child’s health – probably not.
Love your post though! And really, did they think taking away the toy in the meal would be sufficient? Ha.

Telling Dad July 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I don’t think the bloggers are selling out in the least. Opinions are all over and the ultimate judge should be the parent him or herself. I have to wonder if the same parents blasting those who visit McDonald’s allow their children to eat anything with artificial colors, flavors, trans fats, or fillers. From breakfast cereal to snack bars, it’s everywhere. Company’s can put whatever they want on the supermarket shelves, it doesn’t mean we’re forced to eat it or buy it. I wouldn’t judge someone for feeding their child flax seed and I don’t want to be judged if they enjoy an occasional trip to McD’s.

Marianne July 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm

He He He! Love it! The key is that we “vote” with our wallets for what products are offered because they wouldn’t sell it if people didn’t buy it. I love the chubby Ronald doll – a real sign of the times. Of course the old Grimace was also a bit rotund.

Jen-Eighty MPH Mom July 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! Grey tones, ugly toys, etc. The appeal would definitely be gone. You are too funny – I suppose some don’t get your sense of humor.

P.S. Want to join me for a McFlurry? 🙂

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