junk food

Why I'm Not Lovin' McDonalds Go-Gurt

The news that McDonald’s is including yogurt as an option in their Happy Meals should be, well, happy news. Especially since it’s a specially-formulated version of Go-Gurt that contains 25 percent less sugar than Go-Gurt sold in stores.

But I’m not cheering. When I attended the McDonald’s shareholders meeting last month with Corporate Accountability International (read, “What Happened When I Went To McDonald’s HQ“), it was clear that the milk and apples (and now yogurt) are used strategically, trotted out whenever the company is accused of selling unhealthy food. Complaints that McDonald’s markets junk food to kids were met with a chorus of “But we have apples and milk!”

Why I'm Not Lovin' McDonald's Go-Gurt

It’s also clear these menu items are designed to build brand loyalty. It’s all right there in the first sentence of the press release McDonald’s issued about the yogurt:

“McDonald’s USA is offering guests new reasons to feel good about the fun and the food at McDonald’s with the addition of a new yogurt side option for kids and a Happy Meal brand ambassador.”

In other words, the yogurt is supposed to make parents (read: moms) feel better about McDonald’s. So moms will take their kids to McDonald’s, and the kids will get hooked on the food and the brand. And I’m pretty sure those kids won’t be ordering apples, milk, and yogurt when they’ve got their own money in their pockets. They’ll be ordering soda, burgers, and fries–which is where McDonald’s really earns its profits.

As Daniel Kline wrote last month on The Motley Fool:

“The problem is that rather than making a commitment to improve the overall quality of its food, the fast food chain seems committed to meaningless changes. A mascot that tells kids about healthy eating may have been a good idea in 1984 but at least in the way McDonald’s is executing it now, it’s an outdated concept that won’t change the behavior of any appreciable amount of kids. The same is true of adding yogurt. The intent is good but it’s just window dressing to make it seem like the company cares.”

As I’ve said before, I certainly don’t judge families who spin through the drive-thru. I know people are busy. I know a lot of kids like McDonald’s. If your children like yogurt and you choose it over the fries for their Happy Meals, that’s okay. But don’t let McDonald’s fool you into thinking the yogurt means they care about your kids or their health, or that they’re not lying in wait for your child to grow out of their Happy Meals–and into their Extra Value Meals.


Are Artificial Food Dyes Safe For Kids?

by Sally on June 10, 2014

Are Artificial Food Dyes Safe For Kids? by Real Mom Nutrition

If you’re wary of artificial food dyes, you’re in good company. A lot of parents are questioning whether these rainbow hues are safe for their kids, while scientists are working to get to the bottom of this decades-long debate.

I recently spent months researching and writing a feature for Parents magazine about artificial food dyes called “The Food Dye Blues” that appears in their latest issue. Here’s a peek:

Although red flags have been raised about food dyes since the 1970s — when researchers began investigating a potential connection between dyes and hyperactivity — the evidence seems to be building that there’s reason for worry. In 2010, the FDA acknowledged that substances in foods, including food coloring, may exacerbate ADHD in some susceptible kids. But the agency insists that they don’t affect enough of the population to warrant action and noted that food coloring is safe and tightly regulated. Opponents believe products containing food coloring should carry a warning label — or be banned outright. So is ditching dyes the right thing to do?

After talking to dozens of people on both sides of the debate, I’m confident that the piece is a balanced look at artificial food dyes: what the concerns really are, what questions still remain, and what YOU should do if you’re worried too.

Are Artificial Food Dyes Safe for Kids? by Real Mom Nutrition

As a reporter, I don’t include my opinion in my articles. My job is to do the reporting, sift through the facts, and present the issue so readers can decide for themselves.

But while immersed in researching food dyes, we took our kids out for ice cream at a favorite local place. Both boys got blue-tinted flavors, and we carried our cones out to the shop’s patio to eat. After finishing  his cone, my younger son went wild. He raced around, talking in gibberish, giggling almost uncontrollably. He was making a scene that was outsized even for him, our resident ham. It seemed more than garden variety silliness. It seemed like the kid was on something. My husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Was he reacting to the blue dye?

I don’t know.

But I do know this: As a parent, I don’t want to worry about whether something in our food supply is impacting my child’s behavior–especially something that doesn’t serve any purpose in food beyond appearance. And especially when there are plant-based, natural colors that can be used instead (and are being used much more frequently overseas). I’m happy that more and more U.S.-based companies are listening to people’s concerns about synthetic dyes and eliminating them in some or all of their products. That’s how this change is going to happen.

Read “The Facts About Food Dyes“.

Special thanks to Center for Science in the Public Interest for sending me the European M&Ms used in these photos


Soccer Mom On A Mission…Watch It!

March 13, 2014

Two years ago, I tromped around the soccer fields in my community, snapping photos of the snacks I was seeing. I set the photos to music and turned them into a video slideshow called “Soccer Mom On A Mission”, with the hopes of raising awareness and mobilizing a new wave of Snacktivists to create change. After […]

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What Are The Olympics Teaching Your Kids About Food?

February 11, 2014

“McDonald’s is, like, the official restaurant of everything.” That’s what my nine year old said to me as we were watching the Olympics the other night. That’s because every 10 minutes that McDonald’s commercial was on the screen. You know which one I’m talking about: the split-screen showing an Olympian biting their gold medal on […]

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A Call for Candy-Free Valentines

February 4, 2014

Remember Valentine’s Day as a kid? If your school was anything like mine, you found an old shoebox, cut a slot in the top, and decorated it with paper doilies and puffy heart stickers. You stationed it on your desk at school and made the rounds in the classroom, giggling and dropping valentines in your […]

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Why You Should Cut Your Mother-in-Law a Break

November 26, 2013

When hanging out with a group of fellow moms, there’s only so long you can go before someone starts complaining about their mother-in-law. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes there are legitimate grievances (“She told me I’m a bad parent and a terrible cook!”). But more often than not, the complaints feel a little thin (“Can […]

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Will The Real “Healthy Snack” Please Stand Up?

September 23, 2013

I’ve been known to gripe about the state of kids’ snacks (read: “Snacktivism“). I’m so tired of Fruit Roll-Ups, Capri Suns, and Cheez-Its being trotted out for every. single. kid-related. event. And I’m thrilled when I see parents, school administrators, church leaders, and coaches asking for better quality snacks–especially now at the start of the […]

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The End of Soccer Snacks?

September 17, 2013

More than two years ago, I finally gave voice to my feelings about soccer snacks–specifically, irritation that my kid was getting cookies and donuts and fruit punch and cupcakes after trotting around on a field for 20 minutes (read: “Soccer Mom Soapbox“). I vowed to speak up and change things. And since then, I’ve helped […]

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Why I’m Glad I Bought The Gatorade

July 26, 2013

It was a case of poor planning. My husband and I had taken our nine year old, Henry, to an outdoor center to play mini golf and hit balls at the batting cages. It was steamy hot, and while I had remembered the hats and sunscreen, I had forgotten water. There were no water fountains, […]

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Camp Snacks: The Sequel

June 21, 2013

I practically stood up at my desk and cheered when I read a piece by Caron Gremont yesterday on The Huffington Post about camp snacks. She writes: We send our children to camp and trust that the counselors and lifeguards will keep them safe, from the pool to the buses used for field trips. Shouldn’t […]

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