Monday, 14 November 2011

Avoiding Fast Food on the Road

Call it a parenting quirk of mine, but in all our travels, we have never, ever, stopped at a Mcdonalds.  Or even driven through.  This means that my 7-year old daughter has never been to Mcdonalds.  Or Burger King.  Or KFC.  Or any other restaurant that serves meals in throw away containers, with the exception of the time she had a slice of oven-baked cheese pizza in a food court in Sun City, South Africa.

How have we managed to avoid it?  Well, it was easy to avoid in Madagascar because there were no fast food restaurants there at all.  In Europe (and we have spent a lot of time in Europe), fast food outlets are abundant - French people love "Mac-DOE", as they affectionately call it. And here in Kuwait, there is a fast food chain restaurant of some kind about every 100 metres.  It's not surprise that obesity is such a problem in Kuwait, there is even a Wikipedia entry on it!

The answer is that we just don't go there.  In France, we just didn't when we were living there and we don't when we visit. We find a real restaurant or brasserie that serves food that our kids like, and we go there.  Sometimes, we go there again and again if we can't find anything else.  In Italy, the food is so good, why go for fast food?  In Kuwait, we don't eat out much anyway and when we do, it's usually Pizza Express, a UK restaurant chain that serves wood oven pizza the way they make it in Italy (or pretty close ;-)). It's eat-in and the food in served on real plates with real cutlery.

I know people who think that we can't, realistically, maintain our "abstinence program" in Kuwait, or who ask,"why continue with it?  Doesn't a fast food boycott just make your lives inconvenient?  And after all, everything in moderation, right?"

I can see greater, long term inconveniences in taking my kids there.  You see, my original reason for not taking the Bambina to Mcdonalds was only partly ethical and nutritional and more to do with keeping the whine factor to a minimum.  I knew that once she had been one time, she would ask, beg, and plead to go again and again and again.

Are all kids like this?  No (so please don't write in the comments that I must be wrong because your children never did this and you go to MacDonalds once a year, no problem).  But my daughter is and so is my son.  I'm very happy to avoid this trap.

As for the "everything in moderation" argument, that only counts for things that are actually *good* for you in moderation - like salt or brown sugar.  Mcdonalds isn't.  As a nutritional matter, Macdonalds meals are too calorie-dense, too high in fat, too high in sodium and not balanced.  The fact is that there is no good reason to have a meal at Mcdonalds if your kids will enjoy a meal elsewhere.  Not one.  Macdonalds is not good for nutrition, not good for calories, not good for agriculture and not good for the environment.

And the reality is that Mcdonalds is just one option when you're on the road with kids.  You don't need to take your kids to Mcdonalds at the Pantheon in Rome.  Take them for some yummy pasta and sauce at a local trattoria instead.  In Paris, take them for a delicious burger at Hippopotamus.  The beef is excellent and they even have mashed potatoes and green beans on the side as an alternative to fries.

Even on a highway in the States, surely stopping at a diner or other truck stop and getting a burger is better than stopping at Mcdonalds (or Burger King or Wendy's or KFC...).  At least at the truck stop, the hamburger patty is more likely to come from just one cow and not 20 different ones.  Here in Kuwait (and throughout the Middle East), Pizza Express is a good alternative.  There are also some good Italian and seafood restaurants.  And there is delicious Middle Eastern food if your kids are open to trying new tastes.  Wherever you are with your kids, finding a local restaurant, or even just a place where you can sit down and eat food on real plates, will almost always be a better choice nutritionally and environmentally.


Charity from said...

I love your style! I'm a mom to a toddler, baby and another one to be in Rome and feel the same way. Not just about McDonald's (which I admit we've been to once...and won't do again.) but about insisting on good eating habits in general. Good means healthy, variety, and just learning how to enjoy a meal together. We're not militant and certainly not martyrs but it's a big area of effort for us. Thanks for the post!

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle said...

Well done. I'd love to say my guys have never been to McDonalds but alas I'm afraid I've made the visit there once or twice (can I blame it on the free wifi)?.

I love the look of Hippopotamus, your post was a great reminder though that we don't NEED to go there, there are other options.


The Globetrotter Parent said...

Thank you for your comments. Kirsty, it's nice to hear from you. I've been a fan of your blog for a long time now.

NSB said...

I would recommend going to Solo Pizza it's extremely delicious and run fully by a kuwaiti staff.

hope you like it.