Fat kids need more than McPasta

Fat Grimace
McDonald’s has given into the health-nazi wowsers, and launches a healthier children’s meal tomorrow. Mackers is hoping that its unfortunately-named Pasta Zoo range will get the critics – and potential litigants – off its back, because children will now pester their parents for a slightly lower-fat meal in order to get a crappy plastic toy. Well, that’s childhood obesity instantly solved.

The absurd thing about these new meals is that according to the SMH article today, it’s only got 6g less fat than the cheeseburger meal – 19 instead of 25. Not exactly a weight-loss revolution, is it? If that’s the difference, kids may as well eat the food they want. They’re going to get almost as fat, so they might as well enjoy it.

Of course, they’re also offering Crunchie shakes and sundaes, for a limited time only – just in case you though the burger giant had turned over a completely new leaf or something.

I’m happy to admit that McDonald’s has made an effort with its Deli Choices and Salads options – many of those options contain less than 10g of fat. But really, who goes to Mickey D’s for a bread roll? They’re quite tasty, but not compared with, say, a turkish bread or wrap from a café. The only real point of them is to give parents something to eat other than Big Macs while their kids are pigging out on the good stuff.

I don’t tend to eat their food during daylight hours or when sober, and really – when it’s past 1am and you’re on the way home, who’s going to order a low-fat sandwich? Especially when you have to wait for it. Cheeseburger all the way – nothing tastes better than delicious plasticky cheese and sugary tomato sauce at that hour. Well, except a kebab.

Ultimately, this low-fat stuff is just tinkering around the edges. Kids are always going to eat reasonably unhealthily. It’s not like kids didn’t used to eat sweets and fried food. The main problem is that they don’t exercise, not that they don’t eat sufficiently healthy food. And all the Government has come up with is a lamo campaign featuring a dancing armchair.

It’s actually not that hard a problem to solve. The state already gets complete control of kids during schooldays. If they want to spend $116 million on getting kids to exercise, they should crackdown on unhealthy food in tuckshops, make the school day longer and include an hour of mandatory sport or games every day, say from 3 to 4pm. Parents would appreciate having their kids taken care of for that extra time, and kids would really enjoy it as well. It would also reduce the cost of after-school care, and parents could reallocate some of the money they spend on that to sport.

I was pleased to see that they’re already well on the way to doing this. The issue is that it doesn’t appear to be mandatory, and seems only to involve regular sports – but getting kids simply to run around for an hour in the playground is helpful as well. If kids had to play brandings for an hour after school, that would make a huge difference. Nothing made me run as fast in primary school as the prospect of having a tennis ball pegged at my head.

(Well, perhaps when we used to play Catch and Kiss. Boys’ attitudes to girls in primary schools are bizarre. Most guys I know spend most of their waking lives trying to catch girl germs these days.)

Television and computer games are the real culprit in the obesity crisis. And while I’m all for McDonald’s making its food less unhealthy and not being allowed to target kids – which is only a milder version of tobacco companies marketing their unhealthy products to them, if you think about it – the best solution is to increase the number of calories kids have to burn, not just to attempt the almost impossible task of reducing their intake.

Dominic Knight

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