To eat or not eat McDonald's? The Answer's in the Wrapper

I love McDonald's. Going into a clean, busy McDonald's where the grease is always hot and the food is always moving is like a moment in heaven. When I'm there, I'm with my daughter to get what we always get: six-piece chicken nugget Happy Meal for her, Fillet o' Fish and fries for me. It's always good; it's always the same. That's all we want.

When I was a kid, McDonald's was a treat. My mother cooked our meals faithfully, so when we went to the Golden Arches--still pretty much a drive through back then--we took our time with it. It was like going to a carnival--the bright lights, the shiny colored tile, the cartoon character representatives of fast food bliss bolted to the walls--and it was fun.

The packaging really was everything. So it's no surprise that a bunch of little kids from California like the packaging, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. This really isn't news.

Not only do we pick our fast food by the package, but also our homes, our cars, our schools, our friends, our clothes....

What is a surprise is that so many of the low-income kids who participated in the study said they at eat McDonald's at least once a week and that they own a lot of TV sets. The study found that the "degree of preference expressed by the children correlated with the number of television sets they had in their homes and the frequency with which they ate at McDonald’s."

"The researchers studied the taste preferences of 63 children between the ages of 3 and 5 who were enrolled in six Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. The children sampled five foods: chicken nuggets, a hamburger, french fries, baby carrots and milk. The chicken nuggets, hamburger and french fries were all from McDonald’s; the carrots and milk were purchased from a grocery store. Robinson and his colleagues chose to specifically study McDonald’s because the company is the largest fast-food advertiser in the United States and most study subjects would likely be familiar with the brand," according to a press release from Stanford.

The marketing crew selling McDonald's to the world isn't responsible for the poor choices of parents. Why are they buying so much fast food, and why do they own so many TVs? And why are their kids in front of them all the time? Another Stanford study found that the desire for fast food, trendy toys, and the like correlated to the amount of time kids spend in front of the TV.

In an online MSNBC poll this week, 73 percent of respondents said parents should take responsibility for helping their kids make good decisions.

We're going to McDonald's for lunch today. I'm going to save the wrappers so when dinner proves to be a culinary disaster, I can try the Stanford test on my family. I won't make a habit of it, though!


  1. Anonymous9:47 PM

    Here are two things...

    1) I remember McDonald's and the 70s gas shortage when stations had to put out flags for availability. As we were eating one day, the gas station next door put out a green flag. My mother swiped everything off the table and into bags and we went to wait on line for gas.

    2) The TV correlation is interesting. I haven't been watching any lately - we've been watching movies. So I haven't seen any commercials; thus I don't have any cravings for McD's. TV affects us more than we think, I guess.

  2. This is a great post! I just read about McDonald's this morning in a Swedish newspaper on line. It said more or less the same thing you wrote - there is obviously a link between McDonald's and the wish for more TV sets and more time spent by the TV. That is really scary. What are we doing to our kids?

    I have the same experience as you have. When I was a kid (well, I guess I was like 13 when the first McDonald's opened in Stockholm and that was a HUGE success) going for a hamburger was really a big treat. We only went on special occasions, like birthdays or graduation.

    I try to give my kids the same experience - Mc Donald's is NOT for every day meals. We eat at home. That's best both for our economy and my kids' health and minds. We do eat at McDonald's SOMETIMES when we go across the border because I think my kids deserve that treat every once in a while (like once every 3 or 4 months).

    I think it's really, really scary that poor families take their kids so often to McD. I've heard it's the same thing all over the world. It's like poor parents think they are doing their kids a favor by taking them to McD, like a ticket to a better future. Recently they opened a McD in Tetuán (the Moroccan province where I live) and so far I don't know how it is doing, but I'm pretty sure it's a success. And I really hate to have a McD here! Sometimes progress is not good. :-(

    BTW, thanks for visiting my blog! I've bookmarked yours and will come back every once in a while to see what you're up to. Please come by my place again, I'd love to read your points of view on the things I write about.

    Take care!


  3. My kids LOVE McDonald's. They can't explain why, but they do. Some smart marketing there.

  4. My grandson is 28 now but when he was about 18 months old he called it "Donald's" and Grams thought that was soooo cute!!

  5. I stopped eating at McDonald's when I became a vegetarian. It's probably a good thing that they offer so little for us lunatics. :)

  6. Mmm... true that more responsibility should be held by the individual or the parents

    Max was a treat as well as a child & milkshakes have a special place in my heart til today


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