Why do children like junk food?

by | Apr 9, 2014

Every Thursday my son and I pick up my eldest daughter from Cross Country club, then my other daughter and her friend from dance class. The route home takes us past MacDonald’s and every week the conversation is the same:

‘MacDonald’s!’ one of them will exclaim (as if it’s the first time they’ve ever seen it).
‘Can we go there?’
‘Why would you want to go there?’ I ask.
‘Yeah,’ says my saintly seven year old. ‘It’s really bad for you.’
‘But I want to go there,’ says my son. ‘We can have chips.’
‘I’d like cheeseburger…’
‘I’d like chicken nuggets…’
‘I’d like…’
You get the idea.

So finally I relented and said we could go in the last week of term.
How excited were they about that? They didn’t stop going on about it all week, even my son, who knew that he couldn’t eat anything except the fries. The fact that I offered to take him some wheat and dairy free chicken nuggets didn’t seem to register. He was going to MacDonald’s. That was all that mattered.

You may have gathered that I don’t take my children to MacDonald’s very often. It’s just not something that we do, unless we are travelling and we stop at a service station where the choice of eateries is limited. I’m not a fan of junk food. In fact, I find MacDonald’s food a bit tasteless actually. There, I said it. So shoot me.

Thursday couldn’t come around soon enough for all four of the children. When we got there, they were positively giddy and it wasn’t until we got our food and sat down to eat that it actually hit me. It’s the Happy Meal that they were all so excited about, and at the moment it’s all about Mario:


This is the little guy that came with each meal.  Not one of us actually knew who he was, but that wasn’t the point, the children had their toy and that’s all that mattered.

So there you have it. My children are attracted to junk food because of the promise of free ‘stuff’ aimed at their age group. They are a marketers dream.

It’s not right, really, is it?

What do you think?


  1. zeudytigre

    We rarely went to McD’s, except for one holiday. As a treat my husband booked us into a family friendly hotel for 3 nights. Children’s teas at 5, adult dinner at 8. Children’s teas were freshly cooked, nutritious, cost £7 a head, and my kids wouldn’t touch them. So we took them down the road to McD’s for a £2 happy meal. They cleared their plates and went to bed happily clutching their new toy. Sometimes the battles aren’t worth the pain.

    As a very occasional treat I don’t have a problem with junk food. If you look hard enough you can find fault with just about anything.

    • Nicola Young

      Very true. Whatever makes for an easy life. I’m with you on that one.

  2. Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)

    Thats Luigi, Marios brother. McDonalds is a treat at our house as well. I think that its okay to do it once in awhile. It is what it is > a treat =) #mbpw

    • Nicola Young

      Ah, so now we know. Yes, I’m all for treats, but I am not convinced they were that fussed about the food. I really think it was the lure of the Happy Meal toys.


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