McDonald’s Happy Meals Now Come With Free Books (And A Side Of Childhood Obesity)

mcdonalds happy meals

Ronald McDonald has been scrutinized for his contribution to childhood obesity; now, he’s taking an even more controversial tack in their bid to get families hooked on McDonalds Happy Meals: books. The fast food giant started distributing children’s books with their happy meals in the UK today, launching a five-week campaign and plan to distribute 15 million books by 2015. On the bright side, this means a lot of kids are getting free books, which are far more beneficial than happy meal toys. But on the not-so-bright side, free books at McDonald’s means more parents who are willing to stuff their kids with unhealthy fast food and soft drinks–ironically, in the name of doing something good for their kids.

McDonald’s says says the campaign is modeled off a pilot project they ran last year, which got overwhelmingly positive response from parents. This time, they’ll be passing out DK Books’s Amazing World series for five weeks, including Oceans; Earth; Stars and Planets; Arctic and Antarctic; and Rainforest.

Much of the press on their campaign has involved quotes from Jonathan Douglas, director of the UK’s National Literacy Trust, trumping the benefits of such a program:

“Our research tells us that there is a very clear link between book ownership and children’s future success in life, so it is very concerning that one in three children in the UK doesn’t own a book, and half of kids don’t really enjoy reading.”

I’m all for giving free books to kids; I just feel conflicted about handing them out with a side of childhood obesity.

Photo: flicker user mooshie altgeld

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    • Rebecca

      I’ll admit, we do get happy meals. But I’m pretty PO’d about how they changed them to apple slices and fries. I used to just get the slices and my kids never knew the fries existed. My sons meal had literally two teeny apple slices in it last time! How pathetic. I’d rather my kid eat six apple slices then two slices and a side of fries:( I don’t see how this is better.

    • E

      I don’t see why this is an issue. McDonald’s is not the first restaurant to hand out books. Wendy’s, Burger King, and Chick-Fil-A have all put books in their kid’s meals (in the US) in recent years. I don’t blame them for jumping on the bandwagon.

    • jsterling93

      Ok I just researched it. A cheeseburger happy meal with no soft drink is 400 more like 305 if you replace the fries with apple slices. the typical 3 yr old needs between 1000-1400 calories a day. While I would never recommend eating these everyday I don’t think eating a happy meal every now and then is the worse thing in the world.

    • Tinyfaeri

      I find it far more disturbing that 1/3 of all kids in the UK don’t own a book than I do McDonald’s giving books out with a happy meal. If that stat is accurate, that’s scary.

    • Nadeed Ali

      New research is challenging previous medical notions that “apple-shaped” people with more fat around their waist are at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes than “pear-shaped” people with fatter bottoms and hips. A study of 220,000 people published Friday confirmed that being obese – having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – is a major risk factor for heart disease, but found the distribution of fat on the body has no impact on that risk.

    • Nadeed Ali

      Obesity and physical inactivity are associated with several chronic conditions, increased medical care costs, and premature death.

    • Nadeed Ali

      Childhood Obesity News has been looking at various news articles in which doctors express regret that they are not qualified to educate their patients about obesity. They are right, but for the wrong reasons. In their view, their lack of education in this area is somebody else’s fault. But the American Medical Association requires continuing medical education, yes, even for physicians, and states have their own rules, too. Maybe instead of investment seminars, they could learn about obesity education. Or hey, study up on their own, like ordinary citizens. We have a thing called the Internet.