Sunday, April 29, 2012

Should I say something?

I think that as moms, we have a tendency to judge other mothers' parenting decisions. It's something I try not to do, although it's hard not to.

I was recently talking to my cousin (a remarried, working mom) on the phone. She has a daughter who's almost ten years old, and she told me that since her husband gets home very late from work on weekdays, she's developed a new routine for the last year. Every single day, she takes her daughter to McDonald's for dinner. Monday through Friday, the girl is being nourished by fast food.

I kept my mouth shut because I hate it when people judge me for giving my kids fast food. But I wonder, is this a time when I should have said something? Will years of daily McDonald's cause long term effects and do I owe it to her daughter to say something? Should I just slip her a copy of Supersize Me?

34 comments:

  1. I'd say something but I'd try to be constructive/helpful. Maybe get her an easy cookbook you like or cooking lessons and tell her you're worried about the long term health effects of eating at mcdonald's daily. She might be depressed or there might be other issues going on. Don't get her Supersize Me because because you're trying to help not shame her.

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  2. Maybe tell her how much you (and your kids) love Chipotle and comment that there's one X miles from where they live (if there is one)? I think it would be almost impossible to say something without coming off as judgmental and alienating her, the question is whether that matters to you, and whether you think your comment might make a difference. Do you think it's possible that she doesn't know that McDonalds is bad for you?

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  3. I was joking about Supersize Me :)

    I think money is a big concern for her and fast food is cheap. I know she hates to cook. Surely she knows McDonald's is bad for you, but how bad is it really for kids? Her daughter isn't overweight or anything.

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  5. I really like the first comment about giving her a cookbook for easy and healthy meals. I read recently that McDonald's foods are loaded with salt. Not good for anyone eating a steady diet of it.

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  6. I would be totally offended if someone got me a cookbook and told me not to go to McDonald's every day. The problem isn't that she doesn't know how to cook, or that she doesn't know that fast food is bad for you--the problem is that she has NO TIME, and maybe she perceives that it's not worth cooking if the whole family can't be home.

    Maybe offer to come over for dinner and bring food, or ask more 'insight' questions, a la smoking cessation~ why McD's? Why every day? Are there meals she misses cooking for her daughter?

    I agree with OMDG, there's no way to not come off as patronizing, but there's probably ways to come off as less patronizing. You probably won't win her over in a day (it did take a year for things to get this way), but I think if you're supportive and a good listener, you might convince her in time.

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  7. Yes. Neglect is a form of child abuse.

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  8. Her child is going to get diabetes, hypertension, clogged arteries..etc, etc...

    You should say something. But, in the end if you don't, it's her child that's getting screwed over, not yours.

    Will that be on your conscience?

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  9. As Americans, McDonalds seems horrible, but after serving on medical missions in impoverished countries, I have seen kids survive and thrive on much worse foodstuffs! Please do not shame this mom, she for sure knows this is not ideal. If you really want to help her, ask her what she needs and if she is happy. Help her if she lets you and otherwise, mind your own business!

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  10. How close are you to her? If you are family friends, invite them over for dinner, then make something in front of them. This way, you can show it can be done easily and quickly. If she asks where the recipe comes from, loan her the book.

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  11. She'd be better off feeding her kid frozen dinners from the health food section of the grocery store. Some decent quality meals aren't expensive and offer better nutrional value vs. McDonald's food. I keep my freezer stocked because I often don't feel like cooking when I work late. Example: Kashi black bean mango = 340 calories/8 mg fat/380 mg sodium. Not terrible.

    Something else is going on here. Why did she tell you this now?

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  12. I don't live geographically close to her. We were just chatting and I mentioned a birthday party we went to at McD's and she told me about this, just in a casual way.

    I just wonder how harmful it really is... someone called it child abuse, but I don't think so. If a kid gets McD's for dinner every day for a couple of years, does that really mean they're going to have health problems as an adult?

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  13. I think the bigger issue is that if the kid eats that way every day as a kid, she might continue the behavior... but I agree it would be pretty difficult to say something in a tactful way.

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  14. Lately in the news:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/health/research/obesity-and-type-2-diabetes-cases-take-toll-on-children.html?hp

    Childhood obesity can be devastating. How to broach the topic with your cousin is a different problem, and depends a lot on her personality. Maybe you could use the 'as a doctor, I have this annoying tic about educating people on health risks' angle? Seems less shaming than, 'as a mom, I think what you are doing constitutes bad motherhood' (not that you would ever talk like that!!! Just exaggerating to illustrate the point).

    McDonald's Monday-Friday is definitely concerning and probably worth talking about.

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  15. I think calling this situation neglect is nonsense. I work with some kids who have been horribly neglected. I wish some of their parents would give McDonald's every day b/c at least I would know they were being fed.

    If I were in this situation, I would start off by asking a couple casual questions. Why did you pick McDonald's? So what is Susie's favorite thing to get there? Then I would probably throw in a few suggestions. "Oh I found this great website that has a ton of kid friendly recipes! You should check it out!"

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  16. "I think calling this situation neglect is nonsense. I work with some kids who have been horribly neglected. I wish some of their parents would give McDonald's every day b/c at least I would know they were being fed. "


    Why compare yourself to the worst? When you do that of course you're going to look good!

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  17. When I was a student I shadowed surgeon who told me because of his family busy schedules (wife full time nurse) they eat in fast food restaurants and they choose healthy ones. Taco Bell and Panera - both have choices of salads. And Panera's soups are my kids most favorite meal. Who can brag their children ask for soup? There must be similar restaurants in her area. McDonalds is not that cheap anymore. My kid gets 2-3.6$ meals at the restaurants I mentioned. Taco Bell prices beat Mcdonald's. And frozen dinners are good - only if your kid will agree to eat that soggy also salted meshy mass that comes out of the plastic tray (answer - my kids don't).

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  18. I agree with asking her some questions about this. Maybe she brought it up because she's concerned ... but addressing it gently by asking her if she's concerned is the best way to start the conversation. ...

    Also ... fast food is not cheap. A slow-cooker meal of chili or a slow-cooked chicken is way cheaper per-meal than eating out anywhere

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  19. What about Subway? That could be a healthier fast food option too.

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  20. This is the textbook definition of neglect. She should learn how to make sandwiches and buy fruit.

    Neglect.
    1. Neglect may include the failure to provide sufficient supervision, nourishment, or medical care, or the failure to fulfill other needs for which the victim is helpless to provide for himself or herself.
    2. Forcing your kids to eat god damned fast food every day until they are diabetic and fat. If you disagree go ask Child Protective Services about what nutritional neglect is.

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  21. I don't know, Jacob. If we start analyzing the quality of food every parent is giving to their kids, I think a lot of parents would be accused of neglect. Is a box of white meat chicken nuggets from McDonald's really worse than the frozen chicken nuggets from the supermarket? Or a bologna sandwich on white bread smothered in mayo? Or Kraft mac and cheese with their Cheese Powder #64? At least there are apple slices in the kids meal, which is probably more fruit than a lot of parents give to their kids.

    In my cousin's case, is her daughter (who as I said, is not overweight at all) really being exposed to something that awful?

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  22. Various Anons -- Since when is chili considered "healthy?" Panera soups have TONS of sodium in them. Is that healthy? And Taco Bell? Really? With its ground mystery meat and iceberg lettuce?

    I have to agree with you, Fizzy, especially on your last point.

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  23. Her daughter may not be overweight, but eventually mcdonald's is going to be the only thing she wants to eat if that is not the case already. I don't have any children, but I worked full time & I went to school full time, and still managed to cook. I used my crockpot a lot and I made things in large quantities that would last a few days like spaghetti and vegetarian chili.

    I also kept fruit, bottled water, nuts, etc. stashed in my bag and my car.

    I think you should definitely bring this up to her. There are lots of recipes she can make in under an hour.

    I also have coworkers who complain about not having enough time to cook like I do. I bring my dinner (I work evenings) everyday, and I always remind them, these "gourmet " meals I bring to work takes less than 30 minutes to make! :)

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  24. Under an HOUR? Are you serious? Who even has that kind of time in the evenings? I didn't even have it before I had kids! And you're not even including the time it takes to go to the grocery store or clean up.

    And please, let's not kid ourselves: Spaghetti isn't some magical health food.

    I just find the moralizing about the food choices this woman is making laughable, especially in light of the alternatives that people are proposing.

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  25. Fizzy, you keep asking if this is really bad. As a pediatrician, I have to say YES!!!!!! She may not be overweight, but that dopes NOT mean her cholesterol is low, her TGs are low, etc... That food is REALLY bad for you, especially when you start in childhood!!! You can get fatty liver disease just from that, and not have the weight to show it! There are numerous nutritional studies showing how this continuous fat, sugar and salt (McDs adds all of these to their fries before even frying them) is really bad for long term health. You have to say SOMETHING. You don't have to tell her all that, but she clearly can't realize how bad it is for her child to consume this food on a daily basis. And healthy, CHEAPER food can be made at home with 20 minutes per day. I buy bags of frozen vegis and frozen dishes to make fast, and make big dishes when I have time to freeze for the week. The microwave is our dinners' best friend. And when all else fails, I make omlettes for everyone for dinner- eggs are cheap and healthy (not everyday) and the omlette takes one spray of oil, 1 egg cracked, and 5 minutes to fry. Microwave some vegis, and wala, dinner in less than 15 minutes. Really!
    BTW, in residency I once saw a case of a mom feeding her child ONLY McDonalds french fries every single day, and someone (not me) called CPS (before I saw them, I was involved only after the fact), who arranged for them to have a nutritionist, blood tests, and follow up. It was for the best in that one case. I'm NOT telling you to call CPS, I'm just saying.

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  26. @Anon 3:08 there are a lot of things that don't take an hour to make. You can also do prep with certain foods before hand and over the weekend and freeze for later like Cigal MD stated. This isn't a clean cut solution, but it's a start. I didn't say spaghetti was a super food, but would you rather feed your kid something you made where you can eliminate meat, excess salt, add veggies, etc Or feed your child McDonalds five days a week?

    I also mentioned that I make things in larger quantities so there would be leftovers, which doesn't require a lot of time, just simply heat it up.

    No one is saying she shouldn't take her daughter to McDonald's at all, just not everyday.

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  27. Anon at 2:30pm REALLY. You sound so dramatic, you probably do not have kids and eat 100% organic home made meals. Taco and Panera soup I bet will not have as much trans-fats as fried fast foods. In my family we do not order iceberg salads smothered in mayonese. We use olive based oil dressings which are avaiable in above chain restaurants.
    And for your information ALL american foods sold in the stores have more sugar and salt than european analogous. In Great Britain government ordered reducing salt contents by 1-2 % per year to all food manufacturos. But here salt overload continues.

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  28. That's true. Sodium is everywhere. That's why I never eat frozen/microwaveable foods (unless it's frozen peas or corn).

    Tons of things take less than an hour to make. The old lame excuse that there's no time to go to the market or prepare something is absolute bull****. If you can make time to watch TV or write a comment on this blog, then you can take time to pick up some fruit, cut it up, and serve it to your kid. Even a boiled potato with a slice of cheese or boiled corn/vegetables doesn't even take 30 minutes to make.

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  29. My kid is a good eater, but if I made her a boiled potato and boiled corn for dinner, she'd never touch it. How many kids would? And I'm not entirely sure that's a healthy dinner anyway.

    I'm not a nutritionist or anything, but it seems like everyone is suggesting meals that don't involve meat. Is meat supposed to be bad for growing kids? I actually try to include a little meat every night with dinner, because I think kids have a tendency to just want to eat carbs.

    Regarding Taco Bell: I know someone who used to work there and although he won't tell me anything specific, he said he would never ever eat there in a million years.

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  30. Then how do you get your child to eat vegetables and other things they don't like if you're just going to let them decide what to eat all the time?

    As a kid, I didn't like to eat vegetables either, but I wasn't allowed to leave the dinner table until I was done with them. Eventually, I grew to like them. I'm glad my mother did this, otherwise I would have just eaten whatever the heck I wanted and gotten sick.

    I asked the first question more to see what you guys do, not to offend anyone.

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  31. What do you think would have happened if you ate all the food on your plate except your vegetables? Do you really think you would have gotten sick?

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  32. I wouldn't have, but then again, I wasn't eating McDonald's when I was a kid.

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  33. also there is the SNAP progam, formerly known as EBT and foodstamps. Some 15% of the nation is on it. some states and town have other local food programs.

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/

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  34. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57424501/type-2-diabetes-surges-among-children-and-teens-and-key-treatment-for-adults-often-fails/

    The food habits that a child learns will stick with them their entire life.

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