The Curse of Fast-Food Karma

Is there such a thing as fast-food karma? ‘Cause if so, I’m screwed.

On a recent road trip, I did something that I hadn’t done in years: I went in to a McDonald’s to eat dinner. While I do frequent McD’s drive-thrus for the occasional vanilla cone, coffee or even a salad to take back to the office for lunch, I rarely actually go inside and eat a full meal there. However, for this trip, we were in the middle of nowhere…and hungry. We were not alone.
At 6:30 on this Friday night, I walked into the rural McDonald’s that was swarming with fellow road trippers. Most were families with at least two kiddos in tow. I joined the shortest line I could find and started looking around. It looked like Mickey D’s had remodeled since I’d last been in the chain. Instead of the signature red, white and orange décor, this one was decorated with neutral colors and looked kind of modernistic. Despite this, the smell and feel of the place was just as I remembered—loud and filled with the smell of greasy, french fries (a smell that I have to admit is pretty darn intoxicating and irresistible).
While in line, the woman behind me started asking her toddler basic questions. “What color is the this?” “How many straws am I holding?” “What is your name?” Normal kind of stuff that you’d ask a kid of roughly two years of age. With each question, this little girl took a little prodding to get the answer out. She carefully thought about each and had to be asked the questions numerous times before answering. Then the mother asked her daughter, “Where are we?” (I’m sure you can see where this is going…)

The young impressionable mind shouted out happily “McDonald’s!!!”

While I had been listening to this conversation with amusement, I turned around in horror. Do kids these days really know the branding of McDonald’s before they can identify the color yellow?

I’m not a mother, and I know that my friends who are say that no matter how hard they try to instill a healthy lifestyle into their children, it’s just darn near impossible to compete with the marketing on TV and the toys in a Happy Meal. So, I guess I shouldn’t be so aghast at this, but I was. I know fast-food joints are improving their offerings by making apple slices and milk available instead of fries and sodabut still. That’s disturbing.

However, I still stayed in line. And even ordered fries. Turns out I, like the kid, was drinking the McD’s Kool-Aid, too. I ate the fries, along with my grilled chicken sandwich and Diet Coke and felt like total crap afterwards. In fact, my husband took over the driving because I was so sleepy. And about two hours after the meal, I was hungry again.

“Yes, this is why we don’t eat fast food regularly,” my healthy eating conscience told me.

Lesson learned. I should have packed a cooler of healthy foods or at least scrounged up an apple, mozzarella stick and water at a gas station. But I didn’t. At the least, I should have gone through the drive-thruand ordered a salad. The FBGs always preach allthings in moderation, but if I’m going to splurge, I’d rather it be on something really tasty, not high-fructose corn syrup.

I kind of feel like that God punished me for going into McDonald’s. Yes, I’m being slightly dramatic here, but between the overcrowded dining area, screaming children and how craptastic the food made me feel, it wasn’t pleasant. My experience with the young girl behind me was truly disheartening, and I re-learned exactly why I stopped going Ronald McDonald land.

Sure, I may still sell out and hit the drive-thru every now and again, but the FBGs aren’t about perfection. However, I do have my morals. Once we arrived at our vacation destination, I located a local farmer’s market and stocked up on apples, tomatoes and even a variety of small pears that I’d never heard of before. That should undo any bad karma, right? I sure as heck hope so. Jenn

Photo grabbed from Leonid Mamchenkon on Flickr.

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  1. Girl on Top says:

    I like fast food once in awhile, but yes, after a short period, I get hungry again!

    I like the new look of McD’s though. Very appealing which is probably not very good.

  2. Marcy says:

    It’s not only McDonalds unfortunately. You see all these sugar snacks with Dora or Nemo on them while you’re walking down the grocery store and automatically my kids want it. GAH. The Green Giant peeps are my homies though. They now have their frozen veggies with Spongebob on the package. Normally my kids wouldn’t be interested but now that Spongebob is on it they’re all over it LOL

  3. Sagan says:

    Yep, fast food joints freak me out too. But we can’t be perfect! And the fresh produce is good stuff:)

  4. Crabby McSlacker says:

    We occasionally hit the Golden Arches on road trips–egg mcmuffins for breakfast or a 300 cal sunday for a treat.

    Doesn’t gross us out too bad because we usually surround it with other healthy meals. But when you watch the people in there, you get the feeling it’s a daily occurrence for some of them. Shiver.

  5. Danica says:

    I think about all the kids there too when I go in, and how they don’t realize that what they are eating!

  6. Delightfully Healthy says:

    Sounds like you had the Supersize Me experience…

    I don’t know why, but I need to re-learn lessons like that every now and then, too. I think the farmers market did even out your karma, though. Phew!

  7. Erica says:

    Its so depressing when you’re driving and the only thing you can find is a freaking McD’s! I always push Josh to look for a WaWa or a Subway.

    I always think I’m going to have kids that love fruits and vegis and hate all things dipped in oil, but I know I will probably have a McD’s loving two year old just like everyone else!

  8. Jenn says:

    Marcy: Spongebook is pimping frozen veggies? I LOVE IT! And, hey, whatever works, right?

    Crabby: I so felt like a fish out of water in there. Some people just looked so darn comfortable, too. Shudder is right!

    Delightfully Healthy: It was very much Super Size Me — good call! And it was a big reminder of why I like to cook at home. lol.

    Erica: I agree. Until you have kids, I just don’t think you know what it’s like. 😉

  9. eatingbender says:

    I’m definitely with you on the “should have ordered a salad” issue when it comes to fast food restaurants. Sometimes I just get a hankering for the greasy, trans-fatty food of my childhood, but I always feel like crap afterward. Why can’t there be more Subways or Paneras on the road?! Every time I see a Panera, it feels like my birthday.

  10. It's not so bad! says:

    I hardly ever eat out and really try to avoid fast food. I do however feel like I need to get on my soapbox a little (forgive me) and dispel a little of your horror (hopefully). Recognizing signs such as McDonald’s is not necessarily a testimony of bad parenting. Recognizing signs such as McDonald’s, Walmart, Target, the car wash, etc. is a critical developmental step in learning to read. (In the academic world these things are known as environmental print.) Because these signs contain pictures or other easily recognizable visual symbols children identify them sooner than they do traditional print. So please, be at peace.
    And please forgive my soapbox! I do know what I am talking about though. I have a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, have several years of teaching experience, and am working on a masters degree in Speech Language Pathology.

  11. carla says:

    And not to judge me either 😉

    But I do go to McDs often w/my Toddler Tornado (and, at time, have been heard to say GIMMIE A HAPPY MEAL PLEASE. All about moderation for her IMO) but do not ever eat the friedfoods myself.

    Apple dippers
    Walnut & grape salad
    On & on

    But nary a fry passes my lips.
    Not at all (at ALL) about weight but for my insides.
    For longevity.
    For my arteries.


    Perhaps I shouldn't post this? 😉

    Or, more clearly stated, I've eaten (hello college years!) enough french fries and nuggets to last me a lifetime.


  12. Erica says:

    Send me your pumpkin pancake recipe!

  13. Jenn says:

    Eatingbender: Glad I’m not alone! And I love Panera! Their salads and sammies are the best!

    It’s not so bad: You can stand on your soapbox any ol’ day. We’re all about a healthy discussion. And, I am so HAPPY to be wrong on this one. Good news!!!

    Carla: No worries or judging here. Eating yogurt and apple slices at McD’s is A-OK in my book!

    Erica: I’m going to post the link on your site right now. 🙂

  14. Lori says:

    Like many, I get the random craving for the fries or something every few months, but then regret it.

    I have some mixed feelings about taking your kids there. I know it is not a good habit, but I won’t lie, I had some fun times with Ronald as a kid.