I just found out about this fascinating study led by Dr. Thomas Robinson, the director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Packard Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. Talk about serious credentials.
He had 63 children, ages 3 and 5, sample 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 from a grocery store.
Each food was divided into two portions: one wrapped in a McDonald's wrapper or placed in a McDonald's bag and the other in a wrapper without the McDonald's logo.
Want to know what the kids had to say about the carrots? Then read more
The kids thought the food branded with the McDonald's name tasted "better," even though the foods were exactly the same! Apparently kids do judge a food by its cover. That seems like early brand recognition, too early in my book.
With further investigation, Dr. Robinson found that 1/3 of these children ate at Mickey D's more than once a week, and more than 3/4 of them had McDonald's toys at home. The children had about 2-3 TVs in their homes, and more than half the kids had TVs in their rooms.
It's no wonder kids are "lovin' it" - McDonald's spends a ton of moolah advertising to kids. It's really not fair since kids don't understand the persuasive nature of advertising, and they don't realize that eating foods high in sugar and fat can cause childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and adolescent heart disease.
McDonald's responded by saying they are dealing with the problem. Hmm. Here's an idea. How about you stop advertising your unhealthy, far-from-nutritional food to kids?! Or better yet - why just advertise the healthy stuff you do sell? Oh, a mother can dream, can't she?
I do believe that parents should be monitoring what their kids eat, and teach them how to make healthy choices. If kids ages 3 and 5 years are learning to dine regularly at McDonald's, they are going to make the same choices once they are older. By then, health problems will have begun their course, and those unhealthy eating habits will be tough to break. Now is the time, when kids are young, to instill ways to eat and stay healthy.