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Feeding Fried Chicken to Kids

March 27, 2013

Moms can get nasty. Just try telling some mother that you don’t approve of how they are raising their children, and see what happens. It’s hard to not take something like that personally.

Twitter got a taste of this over the weekend when KFC tried to leverage the power of social media using Mom Bloggers to promote their healthier kids meals. Let’s see if I can give an overly simplified blow by blow of how this went down.

Some bloggers thought this product was a good thing. Others were vehemently opposed to fast food companies targeting kids with their poison. KFC corporate remained remarkably silent while this all went down publicly on Twitter. Their brand ambassadors were being eaten for lunch, without a peep from the brand itself.

In my opinion this was a PR nightmare for the brand, but it didn’t have to be. Because despite all my strong feelings about food, ingredients and integrity, even I would still feed KFC to my kids. Really. And here’s why.

Fried chicken is terrible for you, but man, is it delicious. Do you want to know something? People should be allowed to make their own decisions about what they eat. Food is neither poison, nor is it medicine. Medicine is medicine. And our bodies are remarkably equipped for dealing with poison. Thank you, kidneys. Thank you, liver.

Eating fried chicken won’t make you obese. Eating fried chicken every day might make you obese or be detrimental to your health in other ways. But introducing your child to the joys of fried chicken at an early age will not compel them to eat it every day for the rest of their lives.

And even if they want to, part of being a parent is teaching willpower and restraint. I also make it a priority to indoctrinate my children about the virtues of a varied diet.

One might even argue that the “food” they serve at KFC is more like a science experiment than a cooked meal. And with ingredients like artificial flavor, artificial color and anti-foaming agent in their products, there is a pretty compelling case to be made on those grounds.

For example, I’m a long time fan of the KFC coleslaw. And while in the past I’ve occasionally tried to recreate its signature flavor, it was only just last night that I ever thought to look at its ingredients. Given that I don’t have any artificial flavor in my cupboards, I’d never have a chance at nailing its taste profile.

That said, my complaint with bizarre ingredients in food is never about health. It’s always about integrity. I think it’s a shitty thing to make something called “Honey Sauce” that is mostly high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Sure, it has honey in it. But it is also enriched with “natural flavor” and caramel color to give it the taste and appearance of actual honey.

But you have to be careful about demanding restaurants only make healthful foods. Because if you go down that slippery slope, you are putting donuts, coffee, french fries, salty snacks, pork rinds, pastrami, duck confit, chopped liver, and all other kinds of delicious foods at risk.

Let’s all agree that most of what’s on the menu at KFC isn’t so healthy. I think that’s a great starting point. Don’t you?

Well, if you have kids, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a convenient way to order a more balanced meal at this bastion of battered food by the bucket? The meal pictured at the beginning of the Twitter-storm had one small piece of chicken, a fruit, a vegetable and a drink.

I was just left scratching my head at how this was billed at 210 calories. As it so happens, an original recipe drumstick is just 120 calories (granted, half of them come from fat). Green beans only a paltry 25 calories to the mix. Although combined these two items pack in a hefty 640 mg of sodium. A pouch of the CapriSun Roaring Waters is a mere 30 calories, and a full size pouch of the GoGo Squeez applesauce is 60 calories. My guess is they use a slightly smaller pouch of this delicious but expensive applesauce.

The only thing that really kills me about this meal is the 30 calorie CapriSun, as it is the worst of all possible worlds. The product is simply flavored water sweetened with both high fructose corn syrup AND Splenda. What the hell? Are we really at the point as a society where we think giving kids zero-calorie sweeteners is a good idea?

Fried chicken I can get behind. Even when it comes from sad chickens and is brined in a bath of MSG. But marketing diet soft-drinks to kids seems entirely misguided.

Anyhow, the last time I checked, KFC actually cooks food in its restaurants. The chicken comes in raw and unbreaded. And it’s coated on site and fried in batches as needed. There are sit-down chain restaurants that reportedly don’t do this much cooking in the back of the house.

If push came to shove, I’d much rather have a piece of fried chicken from KFC than a burger from McDonald’s (although I’d rather starve than have another beef patty from Burger King).

Food should be about pleasure. I promise you that people will eat better if they are mindful about how it tastes. This is a great lesson to teach kids. And it should totally include fried chicken. If you are lucky there are better options than KFC nearby. But if there aren’t, the chain will do in a pinch.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. caravan70 permalink
    March 27, 2013 9:16 am

    Agreed, Daniel. There’s room for pleasure as long as you’re mindful of what you eat over the long haul.

    Gotta say I prefer Popeye’s to KFC in the fast-food fried chicken world… but once in a while I get a craving, and I visit the Colonel. As long as I’m not there every day, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Everything in moderation, as the Stoics had it. ;)

  2. March 27, 2013 9:32 am

    A few weeks ago, Kristi GB had a post about the mommy blogger campaign to shame Kraft Mac & Cheese. (I am sure you saw it.) Her position (which I agreed with, in part) was that their efforts would be better spent using that time to find and make REAL Mac & cheese. I thought it could be done a little more like you do – bring attention to the issue, then “Hey, let’s share some good, easy recipes.” Mac & cheese made from scratch with real cheese is not hard to do. And this is coming from someone who really doesn’t enjoy cooking. :)

    This is somewhat similar. Mac & cheese, like fried chicken, is not health food. But our bodies are better equipped to metabolize natural ingredients. I agree with you that KFC is less offensive than McD’s, though I still don’t patronize them (though, I have issues with the fast food industry for more wide sweeping reasons, but that’s for another post).

  3. March 27, 2013 12:20 pm

    Here’s the recipe for KFC cole slaw without the artificial ingredients:

  4. March 27, 2013 12:55 pm

    I agree. I think it really comes down to moderation and teaching kids that food should taste good and it should be used to nourish the body. Giving in to a craving every once in awhile is a healthy thing to do and it’s a treat. I think the way things are done now is more about shaming people into eating right, which sorry – doesn’t work for me. Instead it makes me run right for the ice cream, the salty chips and chocolate bar specials (2 for 1!!) at my local grocery store.

  5. March 27, 2013 2:23 pm

    American cuisine never ceases to fascinate me. We have taken fair food/festival food/special occasion food and made all of it the staples of our everyday diet. “Hey, that chicken that grandma cooks on Sundays after church… Wouldn’t it be great if we just have that every day?!?” or “Hey, remember that corn-dog I got at the county fair last month? We should have that for breakfast! Regularly.”…

    I agree with the general argument that the discussion should be focused on decreasing the frequency of consumption of modern convenience/comfort foods rather than railing against their existence… I find this such a simple concept that it is a bit ponderous that we waste so many words on the matter.

    In any event, I don’t spend so much time worrying about all of this. Appearances well to the contrary, I maintain a pretty healthful diet studded with infrequent (and glorious) scientifically fashioned chemical/calorie creations. I am much more worried about all of the other myriad fashions that the modern world has come up with to force nasty things into my system. Ultimately I can control what I put in my mouth, other things not so much…

  6. christine permalink
    March 27, 2013 4:20 pm

    You know, every time this subject comes up I just shake my head. I grew up in the late sixties and seventies. My parents did not have alot of money and we ate what there was. Many times that was something not so healthy, although it was mostly homemade. There was always a vegetable but it mostly went uneaten by my siblings and me. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I grew up on a steady diet of Cocoa Puffs, bologna sandwiches and the like. We even were treated to a scoop of chocolate ice cream almost every night and we did on occassion have KFC.

    I was a very skinny kid. Skin and bones thin. The reason? I was active… we played outside year round. We rode bikes, did gymnastics in the front yard, ice skated, went sledding, played kick ball- whatever. My mother didn’t allow us to stay indoors and dirty up her house. The problem with kids these days isn’t really what they eat but that they don’t move around enough. Now, I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t be given healthful food, beacause I did a better job of feeding my own kids. But, all of the things you hear about childhood obesity doesn’t ring true with me, as I’m living proof that eating ice cream every day will not make you fat. Sitting on the couch playing video games and watching TV makes you fat.

    • -R. permalink
      March 28, 2013 11:19 am

      Agreed completely. My first word was “soda” not mama or dada. My mother loved her RC Cola from glass quart bottles, and I grew up drinking the stuff by the case. I too indulged in trips to Friendly and Pizza Hut, but mostly I ate everything in sight. I was outside playing all day year round, and my father believed in indentured servitude, so every weekend was occupied with working around the house (painting, chopping wood, gardening, etc) and especially mowing our 2.7 acres of lawn. I was skinny growing up, and that has never changed. Staying active is one of the most important things you can do. I still eat everything in sight, but I’m considerably more conscientious of the long-term ramifications of my diet. And, I no longer drink any soda.

  7. colleen permalink
    March 28, 2013 10:20 am

    In my 33 years on this earth, I’ve never had KFC. I’ve also never had Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, or Boston Market. Never had a desire to eat any of it.

  8. Natalie permalink
    March 28, 2013 11:00 am

    @Colleen, I’m in the same boat. I’ve had a Burger King chicken sandwich and the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken…but last one was over 15 years ago. Taco Bell, Boston, Long John’s, KFC, Popeyes….no desire whatsoever. It doesn’t look like a treat, in fact it doesn’t look like food at all to me.

  9. March 28, 2013 3:08 pm

    Did you see that I finally had some fried chicken in Korea? It only took me four trips to get around to it! The fact is if it wasn’t for you I would probably have missed it again because in Korea they don’t really seem to consider fried chicken to be a meal – it’s a bar snack (albeit a hugely filling and calorific one).

  10. Irie mahn permalink
    September 30, 2015 4:42 am

    actually, food is not about pleasure – food is about survival – our bodies dont know what to do with trash like KFC,burger king and McDonalds, but it DOES know what to do with ORGANIC fresh fruit and vegetation. im teaching my son how to grow his own veg and fruit, (he is 4yrs old) we have meat ONCE a week, and its from grass fed, water drinking live stock meat, not battered and bruised, antibiotic infested live stock – find organic farmers in your area and go chat with them, see how they treat the animals, then take a trip to a mass production company, and see the type of shit they catch on with the animals that you fry and eat later on. again, food is about survival, not pleasure – TV and media did a pretty good job getting you to think that way – feeling hungry? eat…and move on with life, theres people that dreams about a nice meal, here we stand and argue about WHAT we going to eat for pleasure. Thats my 2 cents and im out.

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