Examples abound. Most recently we only have to look to the far left coast (pun intended) and the banning of McDonald's 'Happy Meals,' or rather the toys within them. Those darn kids' meals are so unhealthy! You cannot be allowed to entice kids with toys.
As a parent who occasionally uses McDonald's for a meal with my kids, and as they often do order the Happy Meal on those occasions, I'd like to notify those out in San Francisco that a) we don't get the Happy Meal for the toy, we get it because it's a simple way to order a kid-sized meal and b) stay out of our lives, will you? If I thought McDonald's was an awful choice for a kid's meal they could clamor for the toy all they wanted, and we wouldn't go there. But I don't feel that way. There are parents who think tasty, quickly provided meals that aren't made from tofu and carrots are the most evil thing on the planet, and they don't take their kids to the Golden Arches. Great. Your kids, your choice.
The NY Times has a story today about conflict in the nanny state over cheese. And, of course, all over the push are the evil fingerprints of Big Dairy.
Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.
Americans now eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese a year, nearly triple the 1970 rate. Cheese has become the largest source of saturated fat; an ounce of many cheeses contains as much saturated fat as a glass of whole milk.
When Michelle Obama implored restaurateurs in September to help fight obesity, she cited the proliferation of cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese. “I want to challenge every restaurant to offer healthy menu options,” she told the National Restaurant Association’s annual meeting.
But in a series of confidential agreements approved by agriculture secretaries in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.
It's not necessary that "every restaurant" be encouraged or particularly required to offer "healthy menu options." Let's not even get into the obvious point that even if there are those healthier choices on the menu you can't make people order them. Let's look at the market economics. If you want healthy menu options and a restaurant doesn't have them, you'll go elsewhere. If a restaurant's business is declining because more and more people make that choice they'll start serving healthier options. The market can and will correct this if it's what the people want.
On the other hand, the government's war on fat, salt, and other allegedly unhealthy choices is misguided. More than content, the issue is calories. Overweight people need to eat less and exercise more. Period. Having calorie and fat content on the menus probably should not be mandatory, but it will be helpful if the government targets the obesity issue by focusing on educating people on a) caloric intake and calories burned and how it relates to weight gain and loss, and b) increasing activity and getting kids active. Here it's a greater uphill battle, with the proliferation of couch-bound video games, hand-held games, online chatting, and other sedentary activities, not to mention cutbacks and limits on school gym programs.
Sure, fat provides 9 calories per gram, and cutting back on fat cuts large amounts of calories from a diet, but the target shouldn't be the fat as much as the calories consumed vs. calories burned. Get that in balance and you'll have a lot less obesity to worry about. The hard thing is doing it without being a nanny.