Co-parenting in the era of the McDonald’s hamburger: does divorce make the Big Mac more “evil”?

Everybody knows that kids love fast food and that parents love to give kids what kids want. But after divorce, parents are not always in agreement of what to feed the children. One argument I recently heard is that a custodial parent who feeds a child fast food – including the big mac – should lose custody of the child. Extreme? Well consider this: A recent report on CNN took to task a recent study by Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity- a think tank directed by Jennifer Harris who is the lead author of the study – and they found that:

$4.2 billion was spent on advertising by the fast food industry in 2009 and it is working.  The report finds 40-percent of preschool aged children ask to go to McDonalds on a weekly basis, and 15 percent ask on a daily basis. Also, 84 percent of parents say they’ve taken their children to eat fast food at least once in the past week.

What is an interesting is that whereas parents readily cop to taking the children to McDonalds and other fast food joints pre-divorce, It almost seems that the big mac, at least for some, becomes EVIL after divorce. And it is a point of contention that is growing across America. It would not be surprising if in the coming years, more couples begin to go back to court to seek modifications of child support custody and visitation orders, simply on the basis that the other parent feeds the child too much fast food – including but not limited to, the Big Mac.

And perhaps with good reason. A lot of these foods, the Big Mac included, are arguably intrinsically unhealthy. The more unhealthy these foods get, however, the more aggressively marketers seem to target children in their advertising and brand campaigns. It has gotten so out of hand that just the other day in California, MacDonald’s happy meals with toys was banned due to an “obesity epidemic.”

Parents need to find common ground with this issue. They need to be on the same page. And if not? Then it may be a fight that is well worth it. If, in fact, some parents become more acrimonious about the kids being fed Big Macs post-divorce, maybe that is not a bad thing – their children’s lives could be saved! When you consider the fact that some of this stuff doesn’t biodegrade after a whole year unrefrigerated, the low nutritional content of the foods and the poor digestive properties that make proper “excretion”  of these foods so difficult, one ought to applaud any parent who stands up and says that feeding a child fast food – even the Big Mac – is tantamount to child neglect.

How is fast food difficult to excrete? Ask the medical academics:

As a result of the investigation by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), over one hundred scientists and deans of medical and public health schools signed a petition to stop frying foods in heavily saturated fats, to offer a greater selection of low-fat baked or broiled items, and to start labeling their product’s ingredients. According to Brown, “the favorable fatty-acid content of chicken and fish is overwhelmed by cooking them in beef tallow . . . More often than not, the fast food places take basically good food and turn it into bad” (32). Many fast food restaurants use beef tallow as their main ingredient in frying food. Beef tallow is fat trimmed from meat cuts and rendered into shortening. Beef tallow is not just fat, but it is the worst kind of fat; it is highly saturated, which means it incites the body to produce cholesterol and decreases the body’s ability to break down and excrete unused cholesterol (Brown 32). In fact, beef tallow is even more saturated than lard. Daniel Levy, as quoted by Brown, claims, “It’s a poor choice. We could draw the simple conclusion that if [the fast food industry] would change their means of preparing food to a more health-conscious one, we could save thousands if not tens of thousands of lives every year . . . for many, fast foods are a way of life–and a way of death” (33).http://efldept.aug.edu/freshman_english/bigmac.htm

Not only should more parents make this an issue for modification of an existing order, this issue should also be addressed in parenting plans and in original custody/visitation orders as well. Courts should literally step in and order parents to be extremely sparing in feeding fast food – including the Big Mac – to their kids.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmy_macdonald/802309696/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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