So, it turns out that fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza and nachos are high in calories …. and these foods can make your children fat, if they eat enough of them. I know, I know – it’s like a bolt from the blue, am I right? I. Had. No. Idea. I thought that deep-fried battered mechanically separated fish was helping my daughters grow strong bones and muscles. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who is shocked to discover that ice cream with chocolate sauce and sprinkles is not a healthy dessert for a kid to enjoy after consuming a pile of salty, melty, greasy, mainly beige food …. Fries and broccoli are not equally nutritious? Say what?
If I were to say these things to you, and you weren’t able to detect the sarcasm in my tone, you wouldn’t believe your ears – you would think “surely, Beth is not serious – she must be dumb as a bag of rocks”. However, if you were everyone’s indefatigable nanny, Ontario, you might find yourself nodding sagely, and mentally patting yourself on the back for being right about all those poor, naive parents out there. Because the government of Ontario thinks you need to be told that fast food is high in calories.
I am not denying that childhood obesity is a problem in our province. Are kids fatter than ever? Yes, they are. Is their diet contributing? You bet. If this new legislation is passed, will it help? Probably not. Parents already know that the best way to feed their kids is at home, at the table, with fresh food prepared from scratch. They already know that the fried-n-salty offerings of fast food joints are the worst way to feed their kids. They know that chicken nuggets are not equal to skinless chicken breasts. They know that potatoes in fry form don’t count as one of the five daily servings of vegetables a kid needs. They know that a bowl of grapes is nutritionally superior to a frosted donut. Most parents I know use that knowledge to help their kids eat a healthy diet. And the ones who don’t? Well, they have all kinds of excuses …. They’re too busy to make healthy dinners or pack balanced lunches. Their kids won’t eat healthy food. They’ll only drink milk if it has strawberry syrup in it. Their kids take multi-vitamins and play soccer on Saturdays, so it doesn’t matter if they eat pizza three nights out of seven. The excuse you never hear, though, is “I don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not”.
This initiative is just another way for people to avoid taking responsibility for their children’s health, and for the provincial government to look like they’re doing something about the rising tide of future heart disease and diabetes victims. McDonald’s, the favourite whipping boy of food industry dictators everywhere, already provides calorie counts (along with fat, sodium and every other component one might be concerned with when it comes to menu options). Yet McDonald’s sells about a million Happy Meals per day ….
My daughters have a reasonably healthy diet. Most days, they eat a variety of veggies and fruits, and most of their treats are countered by an apple or a granola bar or a dish of yogurt. So, when we go to restaurants and they order chicken nuggets and fries and blue Jell-O topped with a whipped edible oil product for dessert, I don’t worry about it. I know what’s in those things, but I feel that their calorie intake most days makes it just fine for them to chow down on fast food every now and then. I certainly don’t welcome having to reassure them that they are not going to keel over if they eat the cheese pizza and goldfish crackers and fruit gummies in front of them, after one of them worriedly reads the health warning. I want them to enjoy their treats, not feel bad about them. Let’s face it: the calorie count in a muffin the size of a baby’s head is not news, and won’t save anyone.
After all this talk about fast food, I want poutine. And, no, I don’t give a damn how many calories are in it. In fact, I just might slap someone if they try to ruin my fun by reminding me ….