Another first

Girl from the East is on the verge of six.

Her life thus far has been a series of milestones, from the subtle shifts that hatch a toddler from a baby, to the major leap from preschool to elementary school. She’s reading chapter books, writing words independently, and balancing on a two-wheeled bicycle.

One so-called rite of passage that has escaped her experience is the fast-food kids meal, particularly the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

My Girl is picky.

I am picky.

Most of us in this household do not eat meat. The rest eat it rarely. Unless we are on a road trip or desperate, we avoid fast food restaurants. When we do go, Girl eats french fries and those clever apple fries they serve at Burger King.

So, when fellow blogger Melissa invited me to take part in an event to launch and critique the new Happy Meal**, I figured Girl from the East would be a great candidate. She wouldn’t know a new Happy Meal from an old one.

I worried I’d be opening a can of worms. After all, I don’t want her to become a Happy Meal addict, like Girl from the West was for a while. (Oh, the mistakes of first-time parenting.)  I reasoned that since she’s waited this long, and since I explained this visit was a special event, it would be no big deal.

Once we arrived at the restaurant, which featured one of those indoor play structures, Girl kicked off her shoes and socks and leaped on the structure like a caged monkey set free. While she ran, jumped, and swung around overhead, I nursed a medium coffee.

When the meals in a box arrived, Girl easily chugged two kid-sized chocolate milk bottles. (Not the first time in her life.) She ate all the packaged apple slices and swiped some of the grapes and apples from my fruit salad. She ate most of the scaled-down fries and some of the chicken nuggets. Then it was back to playing air hockey with the kids.

I’m still wary of overly processed and packaged foods. Even after this experience, I’ll be limiting our visits to the we-need-to-burn-off-some-energy-and-it’s-too-cold-outside-for-the-park kind of days.

My take on the new meal? Four apples slices are not enough. My girl eats a whole apple in one sitting. Why skimp on the “healthy” part of this meal, Mickey D’s? Why not offer carrot sticks or sliced bell peppers, too? Oh, and stop with all the packaged dipping sauces. At least a few fruit, vegetable, yogurt, and oatmeal options on the menu justify a return visit to the playscape.

Here’s the bottom line: A fast food restaurant is what it is. I’ll give them credit for trying. After all, if you want your child to eat healthfully, you obviously make other choices. McDonald’s isn’t going to become McWholeFoods is it? My experience in parenting teaches me that what children are given to eat becomes the norm. If junk food options are removed from the menu, then they are not eaten and are quickly forgotten.  With both of my girls, it was not until they began spending time around their peers in a school setting that they began craving and demanding candy, juice boxes, and other treats.

So far, Girl hasn’t asked for another Happy Meal.

The best part of this event? Girl burned off all that energy and fell asleep in the car on the way home. Early dinner. Early to bed. Easy night.

Happy mom.

** Speaking of new things, this is my fist disclosure disclaimer. I was not paid to write this review. I participated upon invitation by another blogger and was given a $10 gift card and a tote bag with discount food coupons for eating and critiquing the new menu options for McDonald’s restaurants.

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