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When I was a kid, the pinnacle of my existence was to get a Happy Meal. My parents weren’t poor, but they were definitely on a tight budget. Happy Meals were few and far between, and I hoarded the little dinky toys that came with them like precious jewels.

I promise you that I’m not going to go all sanctimommy on you and condemn parents that feed their kids McDonald’s french fries because I’ve done it before. But the more I learn about the reality of fast food, the more I firmly believe that completely unhealthy treats should be enjoyed in moderation—and even less, if possible.

Anyone with a brain knows that fast food isn’t good for you. But we eat it anyway because no one is perfect, and it’s convenient and relatively cheap when you have no other options on the way home from work. I personally splurge on fast food once a week when I have a cheat day from my normal #cleaneating diet.

So, I like to turn a blind eye to the horror that is fast food. But as I read more about McDonald’s Happy Meals—obviously targeted to kids—I’ve come to realize that Happy Meals are far from happy:

The McDonald’s staple seems to be one of the best ways to hook kids on fast food at a seriously young age: Forty percent of children ages 2 to 11 ask their parents to take them to McDonald’s at least once a week, and 15 percent of preschoolers ask to go every single day.

This is not good. McDonald’s is known for aggressively marketing to young children to get them hooked at a young age. On top of that, there are a few more “happy” facts that may scare you away from the drive-thru:

  • McDonald’s is kids’ favorite restaurant in the US because of Happy Meal toys.
  • Disney kicked McDonald’s to the curb in 2006 to end a partnership with child obesity.
  • San Francisco tried to ban Happy Meals because of poor nutrition, but McDonald’s inevitably found a way around it.
  • Healthy Happy Meals aren’t better—healthier Happy Meals at 600 calories are still overkill for little kids.

There’s much to be said about the horror that is fast food, so I’m not going to write a novel on it. I’m sure you’re a very skilled Googler and can figure it out for yourself. I’m also not going to pretend like I’m above giving my kid delicious, salty french fries every once in a while, but let’s not gloss over the ridiculous sham that is the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

(Image: Aleph Studio/Shutterstock)