Every Thursday I have my kids for approximately 90 minutes. My ex-wife lives a good 30 minutes away with rush hour traffic so the expedient dinner option is to feed the kids dinner near her place. Since the kids are young (all under 7), they tend to get a bit restless at a regular casual establishment. So the ideal place to go is a fast food one with a playground. They tend to love that. I am ambivalent… It is what I call the kids, fast food, playground dilemma.
Kids who watch endless hours of commercial-laden TV are inundated by these propaganda missives meant to persuade the children that their dreams will only be fulfilled if they go McDonalds, Chick-Fila, etc. The formative minds can’t graps that these places and their magical “Happy Meals” can’t in fact make you happy. They can’t fathom that these places don’t care about their health and that all they want is their parents’ money and lifelong customers. McDonald’s knows that if you get the kids hooked early in their life they will be life-long customers. Alas, these kids’ lives won’t be that long since the diabetes and heart disease they will contract from eating fast food will shorten their lives.
When I pick up my kids they wail endlessly to go to a restaurant that has a playground. I really don’t have enough time (or it is too dark) to take them to a regular playground and then to a relatively health restaurant afterwards. So then I have to deliberate what is the best thing to do with the kids. Taking the kids to McDonald’s one a week won’t kill them and to be honest it is convenient. But here is the thing. I know they eat fast food more than once a week and I am contributing to them getting hooked on the MSG-laden addictive fast food. At this age, their eating habits are being formed. Am I not enabling bad behavior by taking them to these “cancer camps?”
What about me?
The other issue is me. My meal. If I decide to take them to a playground-featuring fast food establishment, what am I going to eat? Fast food is garbage. I know this. I should say that my mind knows this. My taste buds disagree. In that past when I go to one of these places, I don’t have the restraint to buy the salad with its 600 calorie-laden crap salad dressing. So I end up getting burgers and fries.
I have seen the Youtube videos about how McDonald’s food doesn’t decompose. Morgan Spurlock of “Fast Food Nation” has a great video experiment where he puts various fast food and local burger joint burgers into glass containers to compare their rate of decomposition. Click Here to watch it. There are frightening stories of people who have 20-year-old McDonald’s hamburgers (inadvertently left in their coat pockets) that haven’t decomposed. Or the veritable McDonald French fries that we have inevitably found in the cracks of car seats or couches….non-decomposed of course.
Ask a mortician. We are no longer decomposing at a normal rate anymore. The explanation is that we ingest so many preservatives in our foods (and cosmetics) that we are slow to rot. So do I really want to expose this fast food garbage to my kids?
Going back to my quandary. I love the fact that many of these fast food places have indoor playgrounds. They distract the kids and frankly they have fun. I’m not naïve to not notice that they have the playgrounds for this purpose. To get parents to take their kids to these places for the playground and cheap food. So what am I going to eat? My stomach feels awful after I eat their crap food so I don’t want to eat it. So the last few times, I have picked up other food to eat at McDonald’s or Chick-Fila. Is this wrong? I know this sounds weird but I see it as a win-win. The kids get their playground and I don’t get the nauseated feeling that is so common when you leave these places.
There is a great salad place called Salata that is not too far from the kids’ house. I love salad places because despite my exhortations to eat more produce, I really don’t eat much. I am a bachelor and a poor cook to boot, so my desires to eat sautéed vegetables nightly is superseded by the ease of whipping up eggs or even eating peanut butter of our the jar! Ideally I would love to pick up Salata and eat it at the McDonald’s playground, but even that is difficult given the horrific rush hour traffic.
So you might ask about Chick-Fila. Look, I know that many people love it. I would say that many of their ingredients are better quality. For example, they use peanut oil to fry their fries. But the issue is that they are still frying fries, frying chicken, and serving calorie and sugar-laden desserts. Chick-Fila is just slightly better than McDonald’s and other fast food places.
I just wanted to vent my frustrations about fast food, playgrounds, and clean eating. You, parents, who have your kids daily must deal with this daily. Convenience versus health. Even for me who has my kids every other weekend, I struggle with this. What do you do? What is your suggestion? How do you tackle the kids, fast food, playground dilemma?
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