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Burger King Offering Toys for Breakfast. Oh, and 11.5 Grams of Fat.

AOL’s ParentDish reported today that Burger King is trying to draw kids – and hurried parents – in for breakfast by offering a kids’ meal replete with plastic toy.  The Chicago Tribune’s Breaking Business blog posted the story yesterday, noting that the meal is to consist of a child-size breakfast sandwich, apple slices and calcium-fortified apple juice — weighing in at 11.5 grams of fat.

While Burger King is boasting that the meal conforms to fat and calorie standards set by the Council of Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, it contains 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance of fat.  A serving of Quaker Quick Oats using 1/2 cup of skim milk contains only 3 grams of fat, or 4 percent of the recommended daily intake.  Busy parents, take note: Oatmeal is fast and easy to make and is also low in sodium and high in fiber.  Not to mention that it tastes a lot better than rubbery breakfast “meat.”

No matter how you feel about fast food in-and-of itself, the real reason for concern here is, of course, the toy.  As Paula reported last month, a watchdog group has pans to sue rival fast-food chain McDonald’s for using toys to lure small children, citing that “deceptive marketing… is illegal under consumer protection laws.”  Do we really need to reward or bribe our kids into eating breakfast?  What’s next?  Giving them an embossed certificate just for waking up?  GOOD MORNING, JOHNNY!  YOU DID IT!  YOU GOT OUT OF BED THIS MORNING!  You get a gold star.  Now hurry up and get dressed so we can wait in line at Burger King to get some apple slices… and the latest Twilight toy.

What bothers me the most is that Burger King is clearly preying on the weak here.  Breaking Business quotes Darren Tristano, executive VP of Technomic, a food industry consulting and research firm, as saying “the breakfast kids meal is likely to appeal to the most time-starved parents, like single moms.”  As a single mother who works, I know how hectic life can feel, and as a night-owl, I know how hard it can be to serve a healthy breakfast in the morning.  But I’ve trained myself to give my daughter two slices of toast and a glass of orange juice (with laxative in it – for other reasons), no matter how tired I am.  I also keep a bowl of fruit – things like bananas, peaches and plums – on the counter that she’s welcome to help herself to.  It’s a lot easier than loading her in the car would be for fast-food breakfast first thing in the morning.  And a lot healthier, too.

Recent studies have proven that kids have more than twice the risk of developing ADHD from a diet rich in saturated fat, salt and sugars.  I know there are readers who will argue that this news is no big deal, rationalizing that if parents don’t want their children to eat fast food, they should simply avoid those restaurants.  But I think it’s simplistic to ignore the ways in which fast-food restaurants offering toys to children force parents’ hands, making them explain to children why they can’t have a “treat.”  The whole concept of using food as a reward can lead to a slew of problem eating later in life, and fast-food restaurants are knowingly sly, using that to their advantage in the pursuit of a beefy bottom line. 

On the Club BK website, hovering on a banner in tiny print above the cartoon image I used in this post, is written, “Hey kids, this is advertising.”  That should tell you exactly how Burger King feels about its customers: that they’re fat, dumb idiots who deserve to be treated in a glib, smug and condescending manner.  Fast-food consumers may be the willing victims of corporate crap, but Burger King execs and others like them are thrilled to enable America’s addiction to fat.

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