Judging a Food by its Wrapper

Danielle gave me the heads-up to this article:
Food Tastes Better with McDonalds Logo, Kids Say

As Big Brother would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious!”

Our tax dollars paid for this study since it was funded by the Centers for Disease Control, when any parent or teacher or anyone who has spent time with small children could have told them what they’d find. Hear that, Centers for Disease Control? I could have told you this for FREE! (It really toasts my marshmallows when I see how my money is wasted!)

We’re visual people. We’re very vulnerable to visual cues, which include brand messages but are certainly not limited to them. Food marketers know it, and that’s why they choose certain colors for packaging, among other strategies they employ to entice customers to buy more of their products.

As a parent, I have endured the quirks of small (and even not-so-small) children who insist that their ice water tastes better in the green cup, or the Philadelphia Eagles cup, or the Peter Rabbit “coffee cup.” Preferences can change daily or hang on for years! I have weathered the tantrums of the child who wanted the pink sippy cup, not the purple one. I’ve got a teenager who thinks that pasta shells are better than ziti, but being the bottomless pit he is, he’ll happily eat whichever form of pasta I serve (the ingredients are identical, after all).

We’ve all got our preferences. TheDad likes his flavored instant coffee (and after all my efforts to teach him that real coffee is SO much better). I only like “generic” Honeycomb. No two family members in this house like the same kind of soda best. It’s what makes us all unique.

One night we took the kids, and a friend of Big Brother, to the local Chinese buffet. Our visiting teenager returned to the table with his plate heaped high, a few kinds of food running into the others. I like to sample things at the buffet, so I arranged my plate with rice in the middle and a few different entrees all around. “Wow, your plate looks so much better than mine,” he commented–even though we had pretty much the same food.

Presentation is everything. It’s why adults buy pretty dishes, trays and tablecloths. It’s why the Zoopals paper plates are so popular. I like them because of those little divided sections, great for some grapes or crackers, but you know that kids are going to fight over who gets the frog and who gets the fish.

What really disturbed me about the study was the number of small children in this survey who apparently eat McDonalds food more than once per week, and the number of them who had TVs in their rooms.

Let’s stop blaming McDonalds for capitalizing on human nature and put the blame where it belongs–on the parents who indulge their children in this manner. Frequent fast-food consumption is not good for anyone. And no little kid needs a TV in his room! Where does the “product familiarity” mentioned in the article come from? Thin air? I don’t think so. These parents need to grow a spine and say “no” to Happy Meals once in a while.

I’ll stick to making sure the green cup is clean so Little Brother can have his ice water in his favorite cup. With four ice cubes, please.

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