I grew up eating a lot of fast food. Even at stand alone restaurants, I still opted for chicken fingers 9 times out of 10. I realized in my late teens that I wasn’t making healthy choices and that I felt a lot better physically and emotionally when I ate fresh, wholesome meals. Finding a healthy diet hasn’t been easy for me because there is a lot of marketing jargon to sift through. Sadly, I’ve spent years disregarding healthy professional advice because it seemed conflictive and rattled with words like, “toxic”, “rancid”, or “poisonous.” Who, in their right mind, wants to believe that something they have eaten since childhood could be so bad?
Recently, there has been a shift at fast food restaurants to offer side dishes that marketers consider “healthy.” Last weekend, KFC invited a group of bloggers to visit the headquarters with their children to sample these meals. The popular bloggers touted the delicious 210 calorie lil buckets with tweets and photos. It quickly caught the eyes of Moms who do not agree that these are healthy options.
I sympathize with both sides. Two years ago, I could have easily created that marketing campaign. I would have looked at the new menu options and thought, “Fruit water is healthier than soda because it doesn’t have caffeine. Mashed potatoes are better than french fries since they’re not fried. Look at the cute food pouch! Now kids can have applesauce with their meals. I bet Moms will LOVE this.” I remember seeing the first ‘healthy’ kid’s sides available at McDonald’s a few years ago and being excited to take my kids to eat them. I don’t feel that way anymore.
Just because a food isn’t fried, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are important issues about preparation, cultivation, and transportation that effect the food before it even gets to our plates. KFC has missed the mark on a lot of those things. Some very smart people have realized that the foods contain toxins and dozens of ingredients that are linked to obesity. They created a Real Food Infographic to share the message. Yes, even the smart waters and food pouches are culprits, too. The same thing is happening at places like McDonalds, Chic-fil-A, and Wendy’s. As much as I want to applaud the Colonel for trying to do something different, I’m still not sure it’s better.
It’s really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it would be great if truly wholesome foods were more readily available for kids. Sadly, I don’t think the fast food places are going to make that happen. I think it would be better if we just call a spade a spade and let the fast food chains do what they do best. Supersize it. Glorify the calories and the gluttony. Can we get a dessert with that kid’s meal? Some people will make the decision to eat less frequently at those places. Others won’t, and that’s their choice. At least there will be truth in marketing, especially marketing targeted at kids. How else will they learn what is truly healthful and nutritious?
I’ve been confused on where to start on the road to healthy eating, so I decided to grow food in my own backyard. Through that simple act, I’m learning so much about cultivating and preparing foods. The definition of a meal has changed for me. So has the definition of fast food. I can’t think of a faster way to grab a bite than to walk into my yard and pluck a plump, sun-ripe tomato into my mouth.