Fat Kids Are Neglected! Restaurants Jump to the Rescue!

Oh no! He's chubby! Take him away! - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Oh no! He's chubby! Take him away!

American children are fat hogs who are all going to develop type II diabetes, and parents are too incompetent to raise the little chubbos of their making!

Or so an advocacy piece by Harvard researchers Lindsey Murtagh and David Ludwig in the Journal of the American Medical Association is being interpreted by media groups. The original post suggests that morbid obesity be a considering factor in cases where child neglect is being investigated, not dumping America's 2 million chubby kids into the foster-care system.

Not that this has stopped media outlets from going a little nuts. ABC revisited the story of a 3-year-old taken from her family years ago for being too fat, only to find out her obesity was caused by a genetic disorder.

The Daily Mail quotes University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Arthur Caplan, "Our laws give enormous authority to parents, and rightly so. The only basis for compelling medical treatment against a parent's wishes are if a child is at imminent risk of death - meaning days or hours - and a proven cure exists for what threatens to kill them. Obesity does not pass these requirements."

Also on Wednesday, nineteen American restaurant chains announced their participation in the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell program. The 15,000 participating restaurants must offer at least one full children's meal under 600 calories, at least two servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and reduced sodium and fat. They must have a side dish under 200 calories available, and they need to promote these items and make nutritional information readily available.

But does it matter? We asked some St. Louis kids a simplified version of this plan: do you want fries or fruit when you go to a restaurant?

Jack and Ethan are two-thirds of a set of five-year-old triplets. They said, "I would get fruit because it is more nutritious, and French fries are fatty."

Their mom, Kim, added, "One caveat about their answers -- they are avid readers and recently checked out a book on nutrition. Jack has been asking me about sodium all week. This may just be a temporary thing, but they've always been huge fruit eaters."

She clarified to the boys, "'If we got Happy Meals, would you want apple slices or French fries?' and they both said apple slices. Guess I won't order them French fries anymore, which is a shame, because I like to steal just a few of them."

Eight-year-old Elle said, "Fruit, because I don't like French fries."

Another five-year-old, Jack, said, "Fries, because they are skinny."

His mom, Emily, said, "I should point out that Jack is not one for logic."

Joshua, age nine, said, "I'd pick fries, because they taste better. But my mom would probably make me pick fruit."

Sisters Harper, age six, and Meredith, age eight, were on the same page. Harper said, "Fries. Because I just like them at restaurants. Because fruit is something I eat at home."

Meredith said, "Fries. Because they taste really good. Fruit is one of my everyday things. I like peaches and blueberries and strawberries. But, I like fries at restaurants. We don't have fries at home."

Laura, the mother of brothers Sawyer (nine), Campbell (seven) and Hudson (four), said, "I know mine would say fries because that is the only time they are allowed to have them. Rarely do I ever make them at home. They consider it to be candy."

Sure enough:

Sawyer: "French fries, because I don't like any kind of fruit." Campbell: "Fruit, if it is watermelon." Hudson: "French fries because of the ketchup, but only if it is the yellow kind of French fries because I don't like the orange kind [sweet potato fries]."

Mary Lorraine, age six, said, "French fries, because I like French fries. I like that they're salty and they're tasty. Sometimes fruit is too sour and sometimes it's too sweet. But if it was my favorite fruit, a strawberry, I'd pick strawberries."

Seven-year-old Cammy said, "French fries 'cause I like them, and I eat a lot of fruit and salad and stuff anyway." Her mom, Raquita, verifies that this is true.

Ansleigh, who's almost three, chose fries with no hesitation. Her four-year-old sister Kelsea chose apples, which their dad, Matt, calls "a blatant lie."

After hearing her older sister's answer, Ansleigh changed her answer to apple. "Another blatant and bald-faced lie from my offspring," said Matt.

The girls had no comment when asked why they chose as such.

Matt said he thinks they are "more interested in giving me perceived 'correct' responses than anything else.

"I say, give 'em fries because we only go to McDonald's for a 'treat,' or when I am out of ideas," he continued. "Had you asked earlier in the day, in fact, I could have tested it in a less theoretical manner. We went there after Kelsea's pre-K check up. The girls got their Happy Meals, and I went home and opened some wine and had cheese."

Gut Check Jr. was unavailable for comment, but has a history of mixing it up at restaurants. Sometimes she orders fries, which aren't offered at home. Sometimes she'll opt for baby carrots, apple slices, applesauce or, most recently, cottage cheese. Or sometimes she'll freak out the server and eat an appetizer order of hummus.

What can we conclude? That none of these parents in one of America's fattest cities are neglecting their children's well-being by feeding them a diet of nothing but junk food. And since the kids are getting healthy chow at home, the occasional less-than-healthful restaurant meal isn't panic-worthy.

Now, if only all kids had access to so many food choices, then maybe we could solve some real problems.

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