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Pedley’s Ponderings

McCarrots, McKiwi and McCantaloupe? Not so fast.

    

     Last week, McDonald’s announced plans to shift attention and marketing resources away from unhealthy menu items in favor of nutritious options like raw fruits and vegetables. Specifically, the corporation said advertising directed at younger demographics will feature healthier choices in an effort to curb childhood obesity.

     The decision is a welcomed change of pace, but its potential for success should be greeted with an air of skepticism. Healthy items at fast food chains have had spotty records in past years, and the first thing people think of when they crave McDonald’s isn’t usually a salad or apple. Nonetheless, the restaurant’s new strategy is much needed if the country’s mentality surrounding fast food is to change any time soon.

     Our country has become undeniably fat over the past few decades. Poor eating habits have become engrained into the nation’s youth, and that’s made quite obvious by the escalating rate of childhood obesity. Junk food is cheap, tasty and plentiful, and it’s now a staple in America’s diet despite the well-known risks.

     We’ve seen the repercussions of our bad habits for years now. Instances of diabetes, heart disease and other weight-related illnesses are now commonplace. With all the commotion over health care recently, it’s no surprise we’ve started looking ourselves in the mirror and realizing some problems can be fixed by simply cutting out some of the junk from our diets.

     We’re not a healthy country, but the first step towards finding a solution is realizing the source of the problem. Our country’s fast food industry isn’t force feeding us the unhealthy food they serve by any means. Americans certainly don’t take advantage of the healthier items available on their menus, either. Our mentality surrounding fast food seems to be a deep-rooted ideal that’s hard to break – we go there to pig out, not to eat right.

     Here, however, is where companies like McDonald’s have the opportunity to break the mold. They have literally billions of dollars at their disposal for things like marketing and advertising. Their choice to take intitiative and start chipping away at that junk food mentality points towards a shift in the standard that will hopefully stretch across the entire industry. Despite the  early framework, more effort is definitely  needed in the coming months and years to help save Americans from themselves.

     McDonald’s says its reformed marketing tactics and healthier menu items will take three or more years to fully implement. While its great to see a shift away from old methods and unhealthy foods, the company – and moreover, the entire fast food industry – is moving way too slow to undo the damage it has already caused with its greasy grub. Revamping strategies immediately is of the utmost importance if we’re to see any significant change in our downward diet spiral.

     The nation’s fast food chains can’t take the burgers and fries out of Americans’ hands, but they can certainly give consumers better options and push better choices through their marketing campaigns. Completely neglected in all of this is the fact that Americans eat too much when they order out. Oversized portions contribute just as much to America’s growing waistband as the crud we’re putting into our bodies. These restaurant chains helped create the problem, and they can help fix it.

     In the end, it’s the consumer’s decision. If American’s want to continue down their wayward path towards rampant obesity and increased illness, they will. However, it’s quite obvious we can’t keep this up and act like nothing is wrong. We consume too much salt, slurp up too much sugar and chow down too many carbs. The future promises more of the same unless people start taking some initiative and responsibility to correct their poor habits. These restaurants can only provide the options for change, but we cast the final vote with our choices.

     We’ve got to run out belt notches sooner or later, don’t we?

    

     Nick Pedley is the regional news editor for the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and Pioneer Enterprise.