Health-wise, California often seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the country. As a state, it enacted legislation to increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables available at corner markets in low-income communities. The Los Angeles Unified School District was one of the first to ban soda, candy and high-fat snacks in school vending machines and continued to lead the way limiting sugar, fat and sodium in school lunches. And now, South L.A. is proposing a two-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants. The city already has more than its share of Burger Kings, McDonalds and KFC’s. In fact, there are 20 fast-food restaurants on a ¼-mile block. So, banning the addition of anymore is probably a good idea and one that might benefit the rest of the country. But it’s not a complete solution to the fast-food problem.
Stopping the creation of new ones won’t get rid of the old ones. And when they’re there, far too many people give into temptation, particularly children. So, what we really need is a country-wide bulldozing . . . or healthier options. I’ve already talked about McDonald’s attempts to offer nutritional choices. Despite often falling short, the efforts are commendable and more fast-food restaurants should follow suit. Happily, Burger King agrees. It has announced a change to its child-aimed advertising and kids meals that will make both more health-conscious. Ads will only feature meals that have a maximum of 560 calories; kids’ menus will have a flame-broiled chicken option complete with organic, unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk. But, even better is the addition of BK Fresh Apple Fries. Designed to look like actual French fries and served in fry containers, the snack will be a 35 calorie alternative to the typical 230 calorie fries. Provided the apples taste good, it’s a great idea, particularly in the wake of a McDonald’s taste test that revealed kids’ foods preferences were based largely on packaging. But again, it’s not a complete solution.
Offering healthier choices will only benefit if those options are as convenient and inexpensive to purchase as, say, a BK Stacker. If the apple costs twice as much as the fries, which one do you honestly think people will buy? We need to give the fast-food industry an extreme makeover. Grilled should be more readily offered than fried; low-fat should be more common than artery-clogging. And salads should be just as affordable as every item on the dollar menu. But, until that happens, I suppose we can take pleasure in the little things. Eventually, the small steps should add up to a giant change.