Last week, the city of San Francisco passed legislation that will put pressure on restaurants to make changes in their kids’ meals. The mayor vetoed the measure, but the Board of Supervisors is supposedly meeting again soon to override the mayor’s veto. The point of this is to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity being observed in recent years.
Those are the facts, and now I’ll share my opinion. As always, feel free to disagree with me and put up your point of view. I’d particularly like to hear from people in the San Francisco area. All I have to go with is what I get from the news, so it would be great to get an opinion from someone in that area.
It’s About Parenting Not Legislation
I definitely want to see the trend of childhood obesity turn in the other direction. However, here’s where I have a problem. You can’t legislate good parenting. Obviously, we need laws protecting children and teens from being in clear dangers (abuse, abandonment, severe neglect, etc). But I really question how much of the desired impact this will really have.
Some parents overuse kids’ meals, to be sure. They may not have a good meal plan at home or convenience generally overrides healthy eating. It does mean they could do better, but it doesn’t mean these parents are evil.
Might they still choose other convenience items if kids meals are limited or significantly changed? Is San Francisco going to go after pizza chains because families who want fast prepared food choose that over kids’ meals? And what about parents who only occasionally get a kids meal as a reasonable indulgence?
Extra Laws Necessary?
For the last few years, I have seen many restaurants put healthy choices in kids’ meals already. And more restaurants are putting out (or making available) nutritional information for their food. So again, I wonder why the legislation is needed. It seems the amount of impact that would be needed by the legislative approach would mean vastly limiting and controlling the entire food industry, not just the kids’ meals market. I don’t think that’s going to be tolerated by the majority of Americans.
In my mind, it really boils down to parents making better choices, not limiting everything so that there are hardly any choices for everyone. I’ve been a family counselor and I’ve worked with some challenging parents and teens. Just making more things illegal doesn’t mean people won’t still do them, especially if their family environment supports the mindset to make those choices.
Change Must Come From Within
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see the trend of childhood (and adulthood) obesity do a 180. It does cause a lot of problems down the road for people and it’s something everyone should pay better attention to. But here’s the catch – personal change must come from within. That’s how it’s always been.
More nutritional information is a good thing, and promotion of healthy choices can certainly help. What will each parent do with the information? That’s impossible to predict. But I think it’s a more genuine way to nudge parents into making better choices for their kids.
OK, readers, fire away. Just keep your comments respectful and I’ll be happy to hear your opinions and thoughts.
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Last reviewed: 9 Nov 2010