Nonna’s Happy Meal Blog

By Nonna Joann • Mar 3rd, 2009 • Category: Horrible Foods

happy-meal-1.jpgEven picky eaters will eat fast food, especially French fries. A recent survey found the French fry to be baby’s first finger food. When I talk to moms, they always insist their children don’t eat that many French fries. Someone is in denial.

Researchers at Ohio State University analyzed government data on 6,500 children and teens, ages 2 to 18. They found the children were consuming an average of 2 cups of fruit, vegetables, and juice combined a day. French fries account for 25 percent of their vegetable intake. Someone consuming 2,000 calories a day should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies a day—over TWICE the amount recorded.

Then there’s the nagging statistic that French fries compose 25 percent of children’s vegetable intake. While writing “Eat Your French Fries Vegetables,” I decided to see if the claim that a Happy Meal will last for years is true. I purchased a Happy Meal on March 3, 2009. To follow Nonna’s Happy Meal Blog, you’ll want to subscribe to the Baby Bites Ezine.

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Nonna’s Happy Meal Blog:

March 3, 2009
My newly purchased Happy Meal smells yummy and it’s very colorful. I receive a PetShop virtual pet dog in a yellow plastic doggie carry-case, along with my child-size hamburger, small fries, and a soft drink. On one side of the cardboard box the meal comes in are cutouts for a pet shop window and door. What little girl wouldn’t absolutely love it? The boy’s side of the box has a Spider-Man scene. The Spider-Man side states, “Meet the spectacular Spider-Man in McWorld at and go on your own superhero adventure!” WOW what fun. As colorful as my Happy Meal is, the food is mostly colorless. French fries are made from starchy white potatoes and a hockey puck-size brown hamburger is served on a mini-white-bread bun. There’s no lettuce, cheese, or otherwise healthful topping, just a dab of ketchup and a slice of pickle.

March 4
Happy Meal greets me as I walk into my office this morning. It’s perched on a shelf behind my desk and there is a faint smell of French fries as I enter the room. My husband is concerned about the odor. I ask, “What do ya mean?” After all it smells yummy. He says, “What about when it putrefies, decomposes, and turns rancid?” I answer, “That’s the point of my experiment. It’s NOT supposed to decompose, only a natural food would do that! If it does, I’ll move it into a glass container, to control any unpleasant smell. Then, I’ll have more to report.

March 5
Day three, my cheery Happy Meal’s yummy smell is hardly noticeable as I come into my office. I can’t help but think about the hidden ingredient in much of McDonalds’ food. It’s even in their fries …MSG. MSG is an excitotoxin, which over-stimulate brain cells to the point that they die. Many people experience headaches when this occurs. MSG is an excitatory neuro-transmitter or “excitotoxin.” Excitotoxins are chemical transmitters allowing brain cells to communicate. Unfortunately, excitotoxins over-stimulate your brain cells and they die. It’s a toxic substance. As you would guess, children are most at risk from ingesting MSG in Happy Meals. It can pass the blood brain barrier and even the placental barrier, affecting unborn children. Morgan Spurlock, from the movie SuperSize Me, experienced extreme headaches on his McDonald’s diet. In his movie and book, he says his health team was at a loss for the reason. It’s a shame they missed the connection to MSG. For more information about MSG, Click Here.

March 6 AM
I now own my very own McDonalds’ Spiderman toy. Yep, I went back to McDonalds and purchased the toy alone. Now I have a toy for each side of the McDonalds’ box. A toy meant for a girl and one for a boy. I was motivated to purchase the second toy, because yesterday, Kelly wrote a comment on my Facebook page after I mention the “Nonna’s Happy Meal Blog.”Kelly observed, “Sadly, with all the marketing it seems to be more about the toy.” And then offered her solution, “I often will make them a healthy lunch at home, and then go thru the drive thru and just buy the toy!”Checking my original receipt, I found my purchase of a Happy Meal cost me $3.02 (after taxes, before taxes $2.79). The toy with the Happy Meal is listed on the receipt as zero.  When I purchased the toy alone, it cost $1.69 (of course, plus tax). Using a rule-of-thumb that the cost of an item is doubled, the toy most likely cost McDonalds about 80 cents. It would be my guess the paper products (the box, napkins, and cup) were next in expense for McDonalds. That alone speaks volumes about the quality of the food.

March 6 PM
YIKES, I’m becoming a regular McDonalds’ costumer! Yes, I went back there today and purchased a second tiny hamburger. Yesterday, I realized my experiment hamburger had ketchup and a slice of pickle on it. I was afraid these two toppings would alter the result, so I went back and purchased a PLAIN tiny burger. It cost me another 89 cents, plus 6 cents tax. Now, I have a control burger without toppings, albeit three days fresher. While I was there, I checked out what it would cost to purchase a small order of fries: $1, plus 7 cents tax. That means that the FOOD and PAPER portion of my original Happy Meal cost me $2.02 and the toy $1.00.

March 7
You’d think at least the ketchup your child is dipping her French fries in and the dab on the hamburger is healthy, after all it’s made of tomatoes. Tomatoes are a super food, right? Not so fast. Ketchup is usually one-third sugar (unless you purchase a healthy brand at a whole foods store).The ingredients on the McDonald’s Fancy Ketchup read: “Tomato concentrate (not whole tomatoes), distilled vinegar, High Fructose Corn Sweetener, Corn syrup, water, salt, natural flavorings.” When you add the High Fructose Corn Sweetener with the Corn syrup, most likely sugar will be the real first ingredient. Ketchup is sugar and worst kind of all. Click Here for more info on High Fructose Corn Sweetener.

March 8
It’s day five, and somehow I don’t feel consoled by McDonald’s website reassurances: “McDonald’s offers a range of menu options to help meet your family’s nutrition needs. When it comes to eating with your kids at McDonald’s, you can feel good knowing that our Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals contain important nutrients that growing kids need. Many of the foods we serve at McDonald’s are the same trusted brands you might purchase for your family at your local grocery store.

“My Happy Meal looks pretty much the same as the day I purchased it. The only difference I can tell is the ketchup and the pickle are being absorbed into the mini-white bun. Of course, the plain burger I purchased looks the same, so do the fries. If this were real food, there should be some decomposition. In Morgan Spurlock’s (Super Size Me) McDonald’s experiment found fries are turning black from decomposition by 2 weeks. But, McDonald’s fries never did decompose. That can’t be food, for food to nourish your body it needs to decompose.

Could the lack of decomposition be because of trans fat? I thought McDonalds said they no longer use trans fat, but according to the McDonlds website their French fries are prepared in hydrogenated soybean oil, corn oil, or canola oil. Any hydrogenated oil is a trans fat! Trans fat is created when a vegetable oil is overheated. Restaurants use their frying oil for a week. It’s heated over and over again. Trans fats can’t release any useful mediators. Their shape keeps them from being recognized by enzymes. Explains a lot, don’t you think.

March 9
How many times have I heard “It’s cheaper to eat out than cook at home“? I don’t know maybe a million! I don’t get it. A Big Mac Meal costs $5.39 and a Happy Meal, $2.79, plus tax. For a family of four that’s $16.36 or a mom and one child $8.18; not including taxes. Not a bargain when you think what that could purchase. Last Spring, I worked out a food budget for two people on food stamps. ( Click Here for my Food Stamp Budget blog.) With a meager food stamp budget of $300 a month for two people, about $10 a day you can feed two people whole foods. One trip to McDonalds would cost almost as much as a day’s groceries. If you ask me, that’s NO bargain.

March 10
Today, is day 7. My Happy Meal still looks happy. The fries haven’t changed a bit, although the French fry smell is faint. The hamburger itself looks like it did on day one. The ketchup and slice of pickle have dried. The mini-white bun is now hard and has split. If you look closely at my original photo at the top of this blog, you can see a vertical crease in the bun. It looked as if it had been squished or bent before the patty was placed on it. The split is in the crease. (My second PLAIN Burger, purchased three days after is still perfect.)

March 12
What is a natural flavor, exactly? McDonald’s says their fries contain a natural flavor. A substance can be natural, but it may violate a religious or dietary restriction or it may cause allergic reactions in some people. It turns out that today, “natural” can mean just about anything. The natural flavor in McDonald’s fries is beef flavor containing hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.

March 15
The Happy Meal was launched in 1979, by 2003 the Happy Meal accounted for 20 percent of all meals sold at McDonalds! It was pure marketing geniuswhen Ronald McDonald became their mascot. In commercials, Ronald McDonald inhabits a fantasy world called McDonaldland. He has adventures with his friends Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids. Our kids have been taken captive, by a clown. According to Barna Research, kids ages 2 to 7 watch an average of 25 hours of television a week and see about 40,000 television ads per year. It’s no surprise Ronald McDonald was number two on a list of the most recognizable people in the world. This, of course, relates directly to our kids’ addiction to junk food!

March 16
My Happy Meal is 12 days old. I’m taking it off my shelf, just for a little peek to see how it’s doing. Ya’d think that there would be some sort of decomposition going on by now. I don’t see any…nope none at all. My Happy Meal is still looks perky.

March 19
It’s too bad that even in the midst of the recession, parents are finding the financial wherewithal to keep their kids supplied with Happy Meals. February’s sales were up 5.4 percent above last year. January’s global comparable sales leaped 7.1 percent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents cooked whole foods at home? No only would they save during these tight financial times, but their kids would be healthier, too.

March 30
Do you know the:
1) percentage of potatoes which end up French fried: 22
2) age when a toddler first eats a French fry: 6 mo
3) percentage of toddlers who eat French Fries everyday: 21

March 31
I’m taking my Happy Meal on its first field trip. It’s going to be my show-and-tell for tonight’s presentation to preschool moms in Littleton, Colorado. No one will believe my Happy Meal is one day shy of four week’s old! It looks as good as it did on day one.

April 10
You remember the jingle, “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” What’s in the  Big Mac® special sauce: Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor). CONTAINS: WHEAT, EGG AND SOY.
Looks like sugar is the number one ingredient in the Big Mac® Sauce.  (And by the way, the Happy Meal purchased on May 3 looks as good as it did on day one.)

April 29
Since I began this blog, I’ve written another post about Monosodium Glutamate. MSG is a common ingredient in McDonald’s food.  Click Here to read “Hidden Toxin in Food.” Unappetizing as it is, my Happy Meal is just as perky as the day I bought it, nearly two months ago!

June 3
How sad are Americans? Despite all the cautions about fast food, a recent poll found that 44 percent of Americans say they like the taste of fast food too much to give it up. Greg Chu, senior vice president of health care for Synovate in North America, says people in the USA have “a love-hate relationship” with fast food. “We love the convenience. We love the taste. We love the assurance that you can count on it. But we know it’s not good for us.”

December 14
I wish I could say that my Happy Meal has changed in some way. But it looks pretty much the same nine months after I purchased it. The bread is crusty. That’s all!

March 3, 2010

Read about my Happy Meal’s first birthday, CLICK HERE.

Baby BitesClick Here for a synopsis of “Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater”

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17 comments on »

  1. We bought an Isuzu Trooper that had McDonalds french fries in the floorboard that had been there for two years (the documentation is a long story). They still looked fresh and yummy as ever, no decomposition…literally you could have put it in your mouth and it looked as though it would have tasted just the same . Mark this as the last time we ever ate McDonald’s!

  2. I think I remember, my friend, Lori Wright doing this experiment and her happy meal never did decompose even after months of letting it sit there. GROSS! And SCAREY too.

  3. More on that toy….how come their signage all says something to the effect of “Toddler Toy available, just ask!” I admit, I’ve been there (sorry, Sophie!) and I’ve asked, every time, for the toddler toy, and have Never ended up with a toddler toy in the bag. Ugh! Subway at least occasionally has a toddler toy handy.

  4. McDonalds has always given us problems. I can’t eat their food without getting a terrible headache and wanting to fall asleep. It’s gotta be the MSG. My kids always want the toys but tend to just pick at the food. They are not accustomed to breaded, fried, hard chunks of things to eat. I did, however take my 4 youngest on a road trip a couple of months ago and we DID stop at a McDonalds to use the playplace and get some dinner. They were all hungry enough that they ate their chicken nuggets, fries and hamburgers. My youngest got a red rash on his face anywhere that the sweet and sour dipping sauce touched and ended up with a sick stomach and terrible diapers for 3 days, not to mention the fever he had all the next day. I remembered why I NEVER take them there.

    I wish someone (perhaps me?) would open a “fast-food” restaurant that would serve up edamame, brown rice with amino acids and chunked tofu. I’d even love to be able to drive thru somewhere and get a real salad and not just iceberg lettuce with over processed chicken bits and 3 pieces of carrot.

    ~sigh~ Anyway, I will continue to follow your McD’s experiment and all your work.

    Have a great day!

  5. WOW! Now that is scary….. all of those statistics are just downright scary! We do get the toys once in a while but only eat there if it’s the ONLY option on a road trip! YUCK!

  6. Do you have an update on the happy meal? I’m anxious to know, although I have a feeling not much has changed.

    Jill, I just pulled my Happy Meal from its perch on the shelf behind my desk. It hasn’t changed one tiny bit…Nonna Joann

  7. All right ! You’ve FINALLY convinced me… we need to pay A LOT better attention to what we feed kids when convenience is a priority…. blech. Easter candy and the kids’ behavior last night really reiterated this for me. Thanks so much for this blog!

  8. Hi Nonna Joann….just curious how the happy meal looks at this point…

    Thanks for asking. I just pulled it off the shelf in my office to give it a peek. It’s Aug. 10 and it looks good enough to eat! The bread is crusty, but no mold. The meat hasn’t molded, either…not one bit. The fries are yellow and perky. The hamburger with ketchup and a slice of pickle looks good, too. The ketchup has somewhat evaporated, and the pickle has attached itself to the bun. No mold on anything. No decomposition. How can a person digest this? It’s beyond me.

  9. I can’t believe someone actually did that. Do you still have it? Ewww. LOL. I was wondering if you tried doing the same thing to a homemade happy meal to see what would happen? You must have one incredibly clean office if you had food out for that long and no bugs or rodents went for it — unless they know something we don’t… Hmmm….

    No, my office isn’t any cleaner than any other. Just think about it… bugs won’t eat the happy meal… it doesn’t decompose… can’t be good for kids!
    Nonna Joann

  10. I gave up the “fast food thing” 20-something years ago, and almost do all my cooking at home, with an occasional trip out to a salad bar. I’m very healthy as a result, and don’t have the ailments most of the populace has at my age.

    I’ll make sure my relatives, who have kids, get this article, as I have published it on my facebook page.

    I can recall the last time I had a “BK broiler”, a little bit after I lost 60#, giving my diet a complete overhaul almost 20 years ago.. I did it twice… same result… on the pot for 30 minutes. That was that!
    I haven’t “done or stepped foot” in McDonalds in almost 30 years. I never found their food appealing as a young adult.

  11. [...] eten krijgt en houdt uiteraard ook een blog bij. Een jaar geleden kocht Bruso een Happy Meal. Niet als maaltijd, maar als studieobject. Daar zitten zo veel conserveringsmiddelen in, vermoedde ze, dat het lang goed blijft. Natuurlijk [...]

  12. Happy Meal’s first birthday blog link is broken! Since you made mention in Slate magazine, you might want to check into this because lots of people will be looking at your site now : )

    Thank you Meghan…Since this blog went viral, my server is unable to handle all the hits. If anyone has difficulty, please try again at another time. I’m very sorry for any inconvenience.
    Blessings, Nonna Joann

  13. Have you tried sending this link to McDonalds? And would they care? My family doesn’t eat this crap. My motto to them is you should only eat food made by someone who loves you not someone out to make a profit. Not watching television and leading by example is very easy to do. Junk does them no favours. Look at all the childhood and life long obesity. Take control of your own lives!

  14. I’m from Poland. McDonalds always was and still is a very popular “restaurant” here in Poland. When I was at school it was realy SOMETHING when I go to McD whith my friends. I really liked that food… Now i saw Your blog and I can tell: Me, my wife and my kids will never go there (even as an option during a trip).
    Greatings from Europe!

  15. And foregive me my english… :)

  16. I love your experiment

  17. [...] läste Nonna Joans Happy Meal Blog, där hon låter ett Happy Meal stå framme i ett år, och blev ganska äcklad. Pratade med folk om [...]

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