One of McDonald's latest initiatives to engage with kids and families on the benefits of balanced eating launched on March 5th. It's called the "Happy Meal Chefs" contest and it gives two family teams the opportunity to help McDonald's executive chef, Dan Coudreaut, in the creation and testing of new, healthier Happy Meal choices. Here are the rules:
Beginning March 5th through April 18th, McDonald's is seeking top inspiring stories from families who enjoy cooking with wholesome ingredients at family mealtime. Parents and legal guardians with kids (ages 8-11) must answer a brief questionnaire and submit a short video online that creatively showcases their family mealtime via the Happy Meal Chefs contest page. Contest participants are encouraged to learn about and feature recommended food groups from the USDA's MyPlate. Ten kids will win a trip to the London 2012 Olympic Games and two Grand Prize Winners will become honorary "Happy Meal Chefs." For more information you can go to the McDonald's website.
So the positives:
As the author of two books that discuss the importance of family meals, shopping and cooking together, teaching a child about nutrition from a very young age, making health and good nutrition fun through hands on experiences - the concept of the contest is great. We need to inspire family time and some of that time should involve nutrition education, with fun activities inspiring the process. Capturing families who really embody what parenting kids to good nutrition is all about, is a great way to "pay it forward' and inspire other families to try it. Learning about MyPlate and other helpful tools that will engage kids and their parents and educate them about healthy eating is a win-win. Having more fast food choices that are healthier is a no brainer. Of course that's a good change that's been a long time coming. Having ads that promote good nutrition is also a winning idea.
The families who will probably submit their story are largely already doing a good job, in terms of nutrition. Sure, some families can wing it and create a "moment of healthy eating" but I suspect many of the entries will come from families who care about nutrition and health and will enjoy showcasing these efforts. They are not the families I worry about. And though they deserve to be rewarded for the healthy habits and good examples going on in the home, we need to get to the 50% of families, probably 60% of families nationwide, who are clueless or overwhelmed or just don't know what good nutrition and healthy home values are. And many of those parents need a cheap, already prepared meal to serve their kids because their lives are indeed stressed and challenged. So if they can drive through and buy it cheaply they will. And if the type of food the kids are used to is the typical fare served at McDonalds, I am not sure this contest will get fruit and milk in the bag.
But it IS a good start and we need to start somewhere. So I hope the campaigns and the contests will inspire talk and learning and healthier eating by all families. When it comes to healthy nutrition, there is always something new to learn.
Published On: March 11, 2012