Applebees Shmapplebees

David Kiley

Back from the three-day weekend, and yet another trip to Applebees with my three-year old son.

Turns out despite our best efforts to limit his macaroni and cheese intake to our own home-made whole-grain mac and organic cheddar cheese, he wants the stuff Applebees calls mac-and-cheese.

For the uninitiated, Applebee's mac and cheese bears an uncanny rersemblance to the 39-cent box (with coupon) of Kraft mac and cheese my roomates and I ate in college. I figure I'm paying roughly 5.99 for ten cents worth of product. But at some point, after seeing some Applebees ads on Kid TV, a trip to Applebees became for him what dinner and movie is to us.

I know I have been vociferous in my condemnation of crappy food like this. So, why should I give in even once in a while? In this case, it was to reward a six-hour car ride in which he was incredibly well-behaved and good tempered despite the fact that he had no idea his Mother wasn't going to be making the trip before he got into the minivan. But Im bothered by rewarding him with a food item I don't believe is good for him. So, I have to figure out a way to reward with him with a trip to the place he loves but find a better choice.

It's frustrating, as I have said in previous entries, to try so hard to keep him eating the good stuff--the stuff without lots of fat, salt and corn syrup. I am encouraged by a recent Harris Poll that seems to indicate there are more parents like me who want some help from the food companies themselves and our government leaders to make this job a little easier. In the poll, 55 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "The government should play a more active role in regulating the types of marketing and advertising that the food industry directs toward children." Fifty-eight percent agreed that the government "should take companies to court if they mislead children and their parents about the nutritional value of the foods they sell." And 68 percent subscribed to the statement, "Advertising by the food industry that is directed towards children is a major contributor to the rising rate of childhood obesity."

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