San Francisco Officials: Make Kid's Meals Healthier, or Toys are Banned
Kids living in San Francisco may soon have to get used to their McDonald's "Happy Meal" without a toy. The city's Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to a law that bans restaurants from doling out toys with kid's meals that are loaded with calories, fat, and sugar, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. If the ordinance passes its final vote next week, it will go into effect in December 2011; at that time, restaurants will only be able to give toys away with kids' meals if they meet certain specifications. They can't contain more than 600 calories or 640 milligrams of sodium, and no more than 35 percent of calories can come from fat. Meals must also come with at least a half-cup serving of fruit and a three-quarter-cup serving of veggies. Beverages that come with the meal also have to be low in fat and sugar, the Chronicle reports. "This is a tremendous victory for our children's health," San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar told the Chronicle. While advocates of the new law say it will boost healthy eating habits and combat childhood obesity, McDonald's officials, who are trying to fight the proposal, told reporters they are disappointed.
While keeping kids away from too much fast food may help prevent childhood obesity, so, too, can getting them to cut back on snacking.
Kids snack three times a day on junk food, accounting for almost one third of their daily calories, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute reports.
Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and author of a recent study on kids and snacks that was published earlier this year in Health Affairs, warns that American children are developing a "dysfunctional eating pattern" of snarfing down three meals plus three snacks a day. Snacking has added 168 calories a day to children's intake over the last 25 years, according to Popkin. No wonder child obesity has become what Susan Dentzer, editor of Health Affairs, calls "child abuse."
But parents do have the power to help protect our children against the health risks of obesity, starting now. Here are three practical steps you can take today:
1. Cut back to one snack a day for children 6 and older, says Popkin, and make sure it includes apple slices, carrots, or other healthful fare. Eliminate juice. (I got this last tip from first mom Michelle Obama, who banned juice boxes from her girls' lunches when the pediatrician said they needed to be careful about their weight.
2. Limit TV time. Children's use of television and computers has been linked to obesity, particularly if a child has a TV in her or his room. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting kids' screen time to two hours a day.
3. Walk the walk. Parents are still children's most powerful role models. If you're turning off the TV to go for a walk, or doing push-ups instead of chomping Cheetos, you'd better believe the kids will notice. When I started doing sit-ups on the floor last night (an event that's rarer than it should be), my daughter immediately started showing me how she's working on a handstand.
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