Banning Happy Meal Toys - Feedback Friday

My friend Craig from The Constant Complainer brought to light a current issue that caused me to preempt my prom post till...closer to the prom. You understand, right?

It seems the La Times broke a story about lawmakers in Santa Clara County proposing to ban toys that are given away with fast food meals for children with a calorie count over 485 calories, such as Happy Meals.

Their reasoning is that these toys cause children to make poor dietary choices and will force restaurants to offer more nutritious options. Lawmakers believe this ban will help curb the rising crisis of childhood obesity by making fast food meals marketed to children less appealing.

It's Feedback Friday, so tell me:

What do you think of a bill banning Happy Meal toys to force children into more healthful food choices?



  1. It's not up to the government to decide what I give my children to eat. It's my decision. Too much control is never good. I think it's a bad idea!!

  2. I agree, I decide what my kids eat and where. banning toys from their kids meals isn't going to make them stop eating the meals. In fact, most of the time my kids don't eat the meals because they are too busy with their toys. I can't count the number of times I've ended up throwing out hamburgers with one bite out of them and half eaten chicken nuggets. Maybe they should ban the toys anyhow, then my kids would eat. lol

  3. I think it's a good idea. The lawmakers are not telling you what to feed your kids, but I think it's a good idea that we don't reward children for eating at McDonalds, just because they want the toy. They can buy toys without eating 600 calories. Besides, they're just a rip off anyway. lol

  4. So, let me get this straight. They're reasoning is that it will keep the kiddos from making poor dietary choices? Not the fact that it's labeled, "Kids Meal"? Hmm. Well at least if this reasoning is across the board, I won't wind up with a "toy" in my lunch bag that's totally not geared toward a middle aged woman who doesn't want to super size. :) Sorry for the silly humor this morning. Too much caffeine.

  5. My hatred for Happy meal toys goes back 20 something years. The scenario :
    1. Young mom of two small boys notices toilet won't flush (you know where this leads)
    2. Young son tries to flush one too many times and toilet overflows
    3. Mom has to call plumber on a Sunday! (overtime)
    4. Plumber ends up having to remove the whole commode to get to blockage
    5. Guess what was the problem was?
    6. A Micky D's Happy Meal toy!
    7. Never bought another Happy Meal because that one costs me $283.00!!!!!
    Come on gals .do we really need more 'made in China' crap?
    Did you ladies realize that obesity is the fastest growing health issue in the country? The US will spend over $300 BILLION on health care by 2018. For all those who do not have health coverage..guess who foots that bill...you and I. So it does affect all of us. I equate it to a bike helmet law...it is for our own well being and not big government telling me what to do. Apparently we as American are not doing such a great job at keeping our children healthy or this intervention would not be needed. Why do we need toys in our meals anyway?? And if you want your children to start making healthy choices...get them out of McDonalds. I cringe at the thought of all the trans fat my boys consumed back in the 80's before we had info on the health hazards. Luckily I was also introducing them to healthy food at home so they are lovers of veggies, grains and good food in general. But it could have gone the other way. For many kids today, their is no home cooking happening at home...Micky D's is what is considered a hot meal.
    OK...I'm done...hope I did not offend anyone ;-)
    Your friend,

  6. Just don't go to McDonald's then. My children are 3.5 and 5.5 and have never had a Happy Meal. The times we have gone for Fast Food have mostly been to Chick-fil-a, and I take the book or CD or whatever until they've eaten their meal. Usually when we go out we just choose something for them to share because they waste so much food. We don't get them a kid's meal.

    I think parents need to be parents and stop expecting other people to make healthy choices for them. Come on, no one forces you to go eat fast food, or to buy the Happy Meal, or to eat unhealthy foods, you make that choice. Yes, it can be convenient, but don't do it often, make it a special treat for your kids.

    My mother-in-law, the dietician, has been saying, "Everything in moderation" for years and that is how we view nutrition. If you want a piece of cake, eat a small one, but make sure you're eating lots of healthy stuff too!

    Stepping off the soap box now.....

  7. Tracie says:

    Just don't go to McDonald's then. My children are 3.5 and 5.5 and have never had a Happy Meal.

    I love it...you go girl. Your childrens hearts will thank you! Personally, I love when women get on a soapbox ;-)

  8. I am all for banning those ridiculous toys! If I do go to a fast food restaurant and order a kids meal, I ask them not to put a toy in the bag. But where do you stop? You could also argue to ban kid cereals and lunchables and blue jello and about a million other unhealthy foods marketed to children. I think the key is educating parents, children, and teachers to make smart choices. My second grader's teacher mentions healthy habits every so often and these kids really listen! My daughter asked me to buy whole wheat bread the other day because of something her teacher said. I say educate on healthy foods early and often. And sign the petition for jamie's food revolution if you haven't already.

  9. It's pretty much the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

    I would venture to say that everyone (even the most uneducated person) in America KNOWS that smoking is bad for you- and guess what? People still smoke!!
    Intelligent people like doctors and nurses even.

    Take the toys away and so what? Parents will still feed their kids crap if they want to.

    You can't legislate nutrition. You can educate and inform and provide resources, but you can't force people. It just doesn't work.

  10. My opinion is this: if a Happy Meal is even an option for the meal, that means that an ADULT is buying it for a child. Doesn't it stand to reason then, that the adult is actually the one making the choice?

    I think trying to legislate things like this is ridiculous. WHERE ARE THE PARENTS IN TODAY'S SOCIETY? If I want my child to have apple dippers instead of french fries, guess what he gets? As adults, we're responsible for making appropriate choices for our children.

  11. As with nearly everything in life I think it's a good idea not to get the government too involved. I'm smart enough to help my children make informed decisions about what to eat and I hope that I am teaching them how to make good decisions on my own (without the government). Toys or no toys people are still going to buy Happy Meals for their kids...I say, let us parents be the decision makers.

  12. I'm mixed on this one. 90 percent of all advertising is geared towards kids...everything from food products to mini vans. Why? Because they're whiney little buggars and most parents cave at the Please, please, pleeeeeaaaassse. Do I think that taking the toy away will help? I don't know. We give our kids "all white meat chicken nuggets" that end up being more corn product than chicken, apple slices coated in chemicals to keep them "fresh" and a soft drink that's loaded with high fructose corn syrup....but its what they like, right? I would recommend the books Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma...well, unless you like eating fast food...then skip it and enjoy your biggie fry :)

  13. I can understand the thought process behind it, but I still think it is ridiculous. We rarely eat fast food in our family. By rarely, I mean the last time I, myself, ate fast food was 5 years ago, when I was pregnant, and had to have a McDonald's McChicken sandwich in the worst way. My children (almost 7 and almost 4) had their first Happy Meal this year, and like all little kids, they thought it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Do I like McDonald's toys? No. They drive me crazy. Especially the talking ones. But I try to choose my battles as a mother. It is my and my husband's responsibilty to ensure that our boys eat a healthy, well-balanced diet every day, and we closely monitor what goes into their bodies. An occasional happy meal won't kill them. At their young age, they are both well-aware that a happy meal/fast food is a once-in-a-great-while treat, and they are fine with that. Do I think removing happy meal toys will stop some parents from making bad choices for their children? Absolutely not.

  14. I can't believe that this is not a joke.


    I can't believe that people agree with this JOKE.

    Doesn't anyone understand how government legislation works???

    MORE government is never the answer.


  15. I agree that most of the Mickie D toys are crap - every now and then my kids would really want the miniature MA doll or Hot Wheel - but never the food! the big draw was the playscape. I started noticing that Chik Fil A had better food and nicer giveaways for the kids. Ultimately, it's up to the parents who buy the food; toys are just a spiff for the kids.

  16. So, I have two boys, ages about 3 and 7. We do venture to the golden arches occasionally...more with my youngest on a weekly play date in the winter with a friend. Yes, I HATE the toys, esp when the older one comes home from school and sees the little one got something that he didn't. Plus, do I really need another crap-o-la toy in my house?? But I agree with many above that the toy will NOT deter parents from feeding children bad food. Even if you go to a place like Chili's or a steak house, they have a kid's menu. And those choices usually aren't too healthy either and don't come with a toy. People, myself included, order from that menu regardless.

    So I feed them that junk every day? NO! I cook dinner at home 5-6 times/week and we are an active family. I think that is where the difference and problem arises...moderation and activity. I work out daily, but still eat pizza occasionally on the weekends. Unfortunately, many kids that get daily doses of fast food are also the ones that aren't getting in any exercise.

    WOW...you always hit the good ones Jen. Nice job!

  17. i think most americans have a hard time regulating themselves! I have to have a trainer to work out and eat right - I fall apart when left to my own devices! That being said, I don't know that laws are the right way to go about it.

    Our government does not have a history of making laws that are in favor of our health above all else - what's to say the new laws wouldn't go down the same path.

    I would rather see the fast food companies take the initiative on their own. We NEED a change, but it has to come because we want it as a country and e all decide to start doing the right thing!

  18. I don't think the government has any place at our kitchen tables for dinner.

    I know the method means well, but if Mom and Dad decide their children's dietary habits, and if they buy their kids happy meals--guess what--they buy their kids happy meals.
    Toys or no toys.

  19. Please. Please tell me there is an end to such nonsense.

    It frightens me to think that there is such legislation even being considered in this country--even on the "left coast." Talk about a slippery slope! We're on one, folks!

    Using a computer for too long without resting your eyes is bad for you. Let's see: do you think maybe there should be legislation that places a limit on how long a person can read blogs at one sitting?

  20. Bravo, Richella! I'm scared of slippery slopes, you never know when, how or where you're going to stop. I don't think we need government peeking into our houses more than they already are. We're smart and we can figure out what's best for our families on our own.

  21. Sounds a little like what I was watching on Rachael Ray yesterday. It was something about making it to where you have to be of a certain weight and what your college would call "healthy" before they'll allow you to graduate... I really don't think that taking the toys away is going to make parents stop feeding their children Happy Meals. In my house, the toys normally get passed on to Goodwill after a week.

  22. I really have to wonder why someone's child is making their oen nutritional decisions. That is what the bill is saying. I have let my child have food from McD's, but rarely. I just don't buy happy meals. I don't want the toys around anyway, but I darn well don't want someone telling what i can and can not feed my child. My daughter eats anything we put in front of her. We cook mostly all of our own food. We don't buy boxed processed food, we don't buy TV dinners. If i want to give the occasional fries, then I don't see anything wrong with it, especially since her favorite choice of 'snacks' at home are yogurt, apples, and broccoli. She is 2.

    There is too much government control in this, and I definitely don't like it. You can't force someone to make the right decisions for their child without being a constant enforcer in their home. Those same people who might not be able to buy a happy meal and would every day can just go to the grocery store and buy twinkies, mac & cheese, cookies, ice cream, etc... and feed that to their children every day. It is someone's personal choice to go to those restaurants or not. It isn't McD's fault if someone makes bad decisions or if a parent won't use the word "no" when their child demands a Happy Meal. As it is I think it's nice that they offer 100& fruit juice and apples. I have bought both of those through the drive thru (by themselves, no happy meal) as a quick thing for my daughter when we were out shopping and i didn't bring food from home. I just don't give her the dip with the apples.

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  24. Ooh... I have all kinds of rage on the "obesity" nonsense, especially as applied to children, so I am going to give in and rant for a minute.

    First, a note on myself. I ate McD's at least three times a week growing up, and even more often in high school-- I ate in the car a lot between extracurriculars, and senior year had McD's nearly every day for lunch. Throughout all this I was accused of being anorexic because in high school I was 5'7" and weighed 115 pounds. About halfway through college (where there was no fast food, and oddly enough I didn't miss it) I finally acquired hips, thank goodness, and of course my metabolism has changed and I'm now comfortably average-looking. But as soon as my bones grew that last little bit and I got hips, a little girl I babysat was horrified that I had gotten fat.

    She was eleven, and in her mind I was fat at 21 years old, 5'7" and 125 pounds. And it's not just her. I have met too many children who talk about dieting who should not even know what that word means. And I've known too many children and adults who have literally starved themselves into ill health.

    This is just, plain, WRONG. And nonsense like this doesn't cause it, but it does not help.

    I understand why it happens-- we need to find reasons why fat is someone's fault and the result of bad, ignorant decisions on their part, because fat offends and scares us, and if it's not their fault then it could happen to us (this happens with all kinds of things, it's a very human instinct). We have to feel like we could protect ourselves from it if we only did the right thing. But seeing that mentality embodied in law, even a little bit, absolutely terrifies me.

    As a society, we need to grow up and admit that eating this or that will not make automatically make you or your child fat. And eating this or that (and exercising this or that way, etc) will not automatically make you or your child skinny. And being skinny does not mean that you are also healthy. People's bodies are so much more complex than a BMI number, and beauty and health are not one-size-fits-all. I have a friend who is firmly in model-thin territory and a friend who gets called rude names because of her weight, both of whom are in far better shape than me.

    I'm not saying that how well you treat your body doesn't matter-- it does. But the visible end result really isn't that reliable, and judgments shouldn't be made based on it and turned into law or policy. That's what I see happening and I do not like it.

    That said.

    I don't think this particular attack on childhood obesity is going to achieve much. The only people this would really affect are obsessive collectors. If a child wants to have a cheeseburger for lunch, it's the parent's choice, and a typical adult isn't going to be persuaded one way or the other based on a toy. And frankly, not all kids care much about the toy anyway. There might be an initial appeal, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly. *shrug*

    Ahh, I feel better now. Sorry for taking up so much space but thank you for letting me rant a bit. :-)

  25. I don't think whoever proposed it thought it through. The intention is good, but that's not the right way to address the problem... for all the reasons already mentioned by the other commenters.

  26. Oh how love that others get worked up when Juniper puts stuff like this out there...it's not just me.

    This one actually makes me laugh..."these toys cause children to make poor dietary choices"...since when is my 3 year old making any of his own dietary choices...pretty sure I'm the mom and he eats what I put in front of him. And when we do go to those restaurants...a toyless happy meal isn't gonna keep me from getting him a burger (I rarely get the whole happy meal for him 'cause he never eats it all).

    I'm SOOOOO glad that our tax dollars are being spent on more useless legislation that isn't going to change the obesity problems. I'm also SOOOO glad that those in government keep trying to be my mother and keep trying to get involved in EVERY area of my life...how 'bout I HAVE a mother...and she did a great job raising me and teaching me how to take care of myself and how to be a productive member of society...and now I am a mother who is also taking care of my child and teaching him to be a productive member of society...don't need government laws and legislation to help me out...doing just fine on my own thanks!

  27. UGH! I hate it when lawmakers think I'm too stupid to do my job as a parent. Taking the toy out of the kids meal isn't going to stop the child from wanting the food, or stop the parent from buying the food. Everything in moderation. I choose what my kids eat, and you can be sure I'm not being swayed by what toy is in the bag.

  28. Kids typically are not the ones paying for their meals, their parents are. It it the parent's responsibility to decide for their children, not the government! I do NOT like the government making my decisions for me! It's a slippery slope: What comes next, telling me I have to drink only diet sodas? Adding a "health" tax onto sugary drinks?

    When the government passes laws with the reasoning that "it's for your own good!" we all better watch out.

    This is dangerous territory and honestly frightens me a little bit.

    The government should put their emphasis on keeping the lead out of toys and quit worrying about Happy Meals.

    (Whew, this got me all riled up! And I don't even have children! Thank you for sharing this.)

  29. Children don't choose their meals. Parents do. My son is a 24 year old Marine. I can safely say that he has NEVER had a happy meal in his life.

    As a matter of fact, he never had a sloppy joe until he was ten and it was not at my house.

  30. I hate Happy Meal toys with the fire of 100000 suns. But, if there are any parents who buy their kids meals just so the kid can get a toy? So be it. That's their choice, even if it does make them a sucka.

  31. Jennifer!!!! Are you hiding somewhere??????

  32. oh my! this opens up a whole can of worms for me!!
    I'm almost mad!
    No one has a right to decide what my child eats but me!
    I make the choice to teach my child good food choices.
    Maybe some parents don't. But that's what parenting is.
    Bringing up children. Some do it well, some do it poorly.
    McDonald's is a treat in our house.
    a treat.
    and sometimes the happy meal toys are crap! and I don't even get them!
    I think McDonald's does have healthy choices (grilled cheese, apples,etc.)
    Leave them alone on the toys.
    It's up to the parents.
    I appreciate a government that cares--but seriously? there's more important things to care about!

  33. I'm with those who say this isn't the government's responsibility nor its right to decide. Sometimes I feel a bit like an outsider living here in Santa Clara. ;) But having grown up with a mom who made me eat my veggies and exercise and didn't buy me happy meals, I know it is perfectly possible for a parent to raise a child who can grow up surrounded by advertising and still be happy without succumbing to it. Forcing people to pay for something through taxes isn't helping people to care. And Forcing companies to advertise in a less appealing way isn't teaching anyone true self control.

    It reminds me of the line in Meet the Robinsons: "Let's see, take responsibility for my own actions or blame you? Ding ding ding! Blame you wins hands down!"

  34. Well, I can certainly see better ways for the government to be investing time, energy and money. Goodness!

  35. Less Government involvement in our affairs=happy me. :)

  36. At what point do parents realize that THEY, the parents, are responsible for their children's food intake. The government should not ban private sectors for selling their products - nothing they are selling is illegal or dangerous - except for maybe when eaten in excess, then back to the parent to be the judge.
    Yes, happy meal toys may entice our little ones, but while they may be enticed, we still need to teach our children that they should not get, nor will they get everything that they desire. Isn't it time we teach our children, and ourselves, self control? Or do we really want the government to CONTROL us?

  37. The government can't force parents to force their kids to make healthier food choices. It's not about the toys.
    My kids don't even get happy meal toys. Only once in a great while when we go to McDonald's do they get the toys.
    The national obesity problem goes a lot deeper then just a few happy meal toys.
    What about making healthy food choices affordable? What about providing nutritional education for parents who really do not know and understand? What about putting recess and P.E. back as a priority into schools?
    Getting rid of a few toys is not going to solve the obesity problem.

  38. honestly, I dont think taking the toy away will make a difference. If the Parent is uneducated enough or simply just makes poor choices to bring their child to Mcd (for example) then that is the parents problem. Taking the toy away is not going to change the parent from walking into that fat filled establishment and walking out with a meal that calorically could almost feed their child for a full day.

    Its about educating the parents to make proper choices. We DID NOT have this issue with childhood obesity and diabetes etc back when there wasn't a mcdonalds or they were few and far between.

  39. As some of the previous comments said, I decide what to feed my children. I am all for personal responsibility... HOWEVER- it seems that millions of parents of this generation seem to have a hard time making good decisions for their children and teaching them good habits. The government shouldn't have to make laws like this, but unfortunately, many parents can't seem to make these decisions themselves.
    We eat fast food less than 6 times a year, it is a true treat, so I'm all for it.

  40. Wowza!!Lots of opinions flying around out there on this hot topic!! Leave it to Jennifer Juniper to get everyone in an uproar! :)

  41. How about the US government targets cleaning up the public school menus instead? Is it necessary to offer macaroni and cheese with a side of a roll? I think not. All of Washington is smoking crack if they think they can affect childhood obesity by taking the toy away from the Double Cheeseburger Happy Meal. P-lease.

  42. I think it's a bad idea, too. But, it would be nice if they had healthier food for kids because my daughter actually eats mcdonald's food when she won't eat anything else. As far as healthy fast food goes there are other places that are a little healthier but for some reason the kids always like the golden arch better.

  43. Wow, the comments were very interesting on this post. I'm a few days behind, but the debate rages on.

    I thought Jessica's point was excellent. People know smoking is bad for you and there's commercials everwhere saying how harmful the ingredients are. But people still smoke.

    My theory in this case is that it's all about moderation. Do we go out to eat? Sure. Do we do it every night? No. Is exercise a part of our lives? Yes. Are we obese? No. There you go.

    I don't think the local Government should meddle in this type of situation.


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