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Ronald McDonald: Fitness Instructor?

Folks, would you trust Ronald McDonald to give your children tips about staying active and fighting obesity? Programs like this were discussed yesterday at a day-long workshop sponsored by the Institute of Medicine, responding to a request by Congress to study the impact of food marketing on childhood obesity and healthful eating.

A McDonald's spokesperson told a government panel Ronald has assumed the dual role of "chief happiness officer" and "ambassador for an active, balanced lifestyle." Previously, the clown has visited schools to teach about such issues as bike safety and literacy. In an abrupt about-face, "Ronald does not promote food, but fun and activity -- the McDonald's experience," a spokesperson said.

Sad to say, the program has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "The program takes advantage of the fact that Ronald McDonald has such recognition with kids that if he tells them to get moving, maybe they will do it," says a co-chair of AAP's task force on obesity.

Now, do you believe for a second, kids will buy into Ronald's fun and activity message, particularly when they're being constantly bombarded by TV commercials that nudge them to harass their parents into buying them "Happy Meals" that have little to no nutritional value? If you're concerned about the health of your children, I strongly believe they'd be a lot better off playing outdoors -- even in the cold -- than getting a health lecture from Ronald McDonald.

To improve your children's eating habits, I advise reviewing some past articles written by contributing editor Colleen Huber, a naturopathic doctor in the making and a mother of an active 4-year-old, who knows a thing or two about handling her child's food demands.

Washington Post January 28, 2005

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