In Defense of Fast Food (Minus the McRib)

Super Size MeI may be the only person alive who watched the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me” and wanted to hit a fast food restaurant when the end credits appeared.

For those who missed it, “Super Size Me” chronicles a filmmaker (Morgan Spurlock) who wolfs down McDonald’s food three times a day, every day, for a month. Suffice to say he ends the month in pretty poor shape. We get to watch Morgan gamely devour one McMeal after another, a sight meant to alarm, frighten and nudge legislators to push fast food chains to produce more nutritious fare. Suffice to say he ends the month in pretty poor shape.

I found the film entertaining, thought-provoking and ultimately unnecessary. I love fast food. Always have. Likely always will. And I’m fully aware of what a lousy choice it is for one’s diet — for both myself and my two young sons. That’s why I eat fast food once or twice a week – tops – and feed it to my children once a week at the most.

Good nutrition means more than eating leafy green vegetables and overpriced produce at Whole Foods. It’s about balance. I also contend it’s a mistake to give too much power to those forbidden treats exercise gurus tell us to avoid.

Snickers bars. Ice cream. Cake. A Royale with Cheese.

Even the best diet plans often feature a “cheat day,” a time when the guidelines give way to let us eat things we keep at arm’s length.

It’s my job as a parent to make sure my children gain a grip on good eating habits. It’s certainly tough to do with toddlers. My boys unabashedly love only one meal – Mac & Cheese. Every other dining option, even such kid faves as hot dogs and chicken fingers, has the potential to generated a wrinkled nose or suspicious glance. Getting our kids to eat, and eat well, is an on-going process. A weekly jaunt to the Golden Arches isn’t going to stop us from giving them the information they need. Nor will it send their caloric intake through the roof.

Fast food also holds an emotional attachment for me. My father turned our fast food meals into an opportunity to connect. We’d often go together, just the two of us, and eat hamburgers and fries in the family car, swapping small talk with every bite. We typically ate dinners together as a family, but this kind of one-on-one time with Dad was rare – and precious – for me.

Ultimately, fast food represents a choice like anything else in life. My boys will someday be teenagers, and they’ll be tempted to snarf down fast food far more than we would like. I bet they will no matter what I tell them, grabbing a dietary sense of freedom for the first time in their lives. They might gain a few pounds as a result, and they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Or, they’ll remember the lessons we taught them, consider their new and improved waist size, and make the right call.

We’ll have given them enough information to do just that. The rest, as is the case with so many options in a young adult’s life, is up to them.

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