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Gluten-Free Happy Meals

Posted Apr 05 2010 10:56pm

I originally posted this last summer, but I thought I would do an update with better pictures.

Last week, I took the boys to see “How To Tame Your Dragon” (a really GREAT movie by the way)! I loved the underlying message of the movie and thought it very appropriate for Sam, who has been struggling this school year to accept the things that make him “different” among his peers. I thought this movie was the perfect representation of the concept that “different” is not synonymous with bad, wrong, unworthy, etc. It was a good self-esteem builder for Sam (as it played out in his language). Click here for a website that Mike found, called Movie Mom. Nell Minow does a good job of breaking down movies to help parents decided if they want to take their child to a particular film.

Sam is 6 and Luke is 2 1/2 and I took both of them. Sam had no problems and didn’t even catch the “breastplate” comment. Luke was only half interested in the movie because I bought him a package of M&M’s (NOTHING trumps chocolate with that child!). Luke did manage to wear the 3-D glasses throughout most of the movie and only commented a couple of times that “the dragons are loud.”

ANYWAY, the reason I brought up the movie is because I treated the boys to a “mama-made” Happy Meal after the movie, complete with the “How To Tame Your Dragon” toy that is currently being offered at McDonald’s. I am catching on to their marketing techniques to children! It is ALL about the packaging and the toy for kids. Well, at least for my 6 and 2 year old!

Well, I can play that game too! ;-)

So here is how I do it. Every now and then I go to McDonalds (always at an off time like 3 pm, because this confuses the heck out of the staff! “You want a Happy Meal with no food but all the boxes??” YEP!) I like to buy about 10 at a time so I have enough for Sam and Luke to get 5 each over the course of a few months (it’s a TREAT, not a staple!). With the Happy Meal packaging (including the chicken nugget boxes, french fry sleeves, cups, lids, etc.) and all 10 toys, it costs about $16.00, give or take. I then take the stuff home for assembly and storage (the extras store nicely in a 2 gallon HEFTY Storage Bag).

The "Loot."

It had been a long time since I have been into McDonald’s and I couldn’t help but notice the messages on the bags:

Have you seen this yet experiment yet? I’m not convinced the fry “Gold Standard” is all about the potato varieties!!

Please define "pure" beef for me.

Gotta love marketing! If I hadn’t been watching all these food documentaries (and if I actually ate at McDonald’s, which I don’t because it is not a risk I want to take for myself or Sam with celiac disease), then I would probably be swayed into believing that what I was eating was the picture of fresh, “real” food! (I love the add-in of suggesting your favorite All-Natural Newman’s Own salad dressing… makes you think everything else is “All-Natural!”

Oh boy, I’ve gotten myself started! Let me get back to the Happy Meal before I gross myself out! ;-)

All the “must-have” components for a “mama-made” gluten-free Happy Meal!

I get it ALL, down to the napkin!

I'm surprised that with the "All-Natural" image it seems McDonalds is trying to project, that they would still be using a ketchup with HFCS! But I guess they don't count on folks reading the microscopic ingredient labels, (or that one gluten-free blogger mom would use the zoom lens on her camera to post it on the web, LOL!) ;-D

Lately, for the fries, I have been using Ore-Ida’s Extra Crispy Fast Food French Fries (which I bake, not fry). I am not saying or even implying that these are “healthier” than McDonalds French Fries , but they don’t appear (unless there is some “hidden source” I am not away of) to contain TBHQ or Dimethylpolysiloxane like McDonalds does. I am flying blind here and educating myself on Wikipedia, so if this information is wrong, please let me know. I have no “hidden agenda,” I am just a mom who wants to make better choices for her family. It is difficult when you have zero formal education to help you understand this stuff!

For the chicken nuggets, I use Allergy Free Foods Chicken Nuggets , which are not only gluten-free, but they are dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and tree-nut free too! You can buy these in smaller units at The Gluten Free Mall . I used to buy them on QVC, but they are no longer available there. The Allergy Free Foods Chicken Nuggets are really good “kid style” chicken nuggets, even I love them! They are not cheap though so I use them for special occasions like GF Happy Meals!

I only buy Happy Meals when they are available in the box, because that is what I remember getting growing up… not the bag! Sam and Luke like to wear them as hats for some reason…

Sam has finally weaned off of the “Sweet & Sour” sauce that he liked from his gluten-days and ketchup works just fine now. Normally, I only buy Whole Food’s 365 Organic Ketchup… it is so good!

Don’t forget the toy!

Have you seen “Supersize Me?” We saw it back in October for the first time and I guess that was the beginning of my decent into “food madness,” so to speak!

If you are interested, check out the trailer:

You can see the entire documentary here for free!

The next film I saw was Food, Inc.:

Then the next, King Corn:

Needless to say, I feel rather awkward making this post, based on what I now know.  However, I have a 6 year old and a 2 1/2 year old that I have to keep in mind.  I struggle everyday with making these “copy cat” versions of the “new American” comfort foods that come in a box or can be “nuked” in 2:30, if stirred once at 1:30 (you know what I mean if you understand that jargon!).  WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR FOOD?!?!  We simply cannot do nothing any longer.  I for one have decided to embrace the competition and accept it for what it is: powerful, well-financed, and politically connected.  I can either complain about how I wish it were different (which it will never be) or Mike and I can teach our boys the difference between the TOY and the FOOD!  And sometimes I think about how this great life lesson will translate into later morality tales.  What a great introduction into the difference between marketing versus substance.  As Mike likes to say, “Good suits cost money,” and that is true.  You get what you pay for, and good food costs money, and it doesn’t come from the drive-up window…it comes from Momma’s kitchen!!  And regardless of what anyone says, MOMMA JUST MADE A QUASI-HEALTHY GLUTEN-FREE HAPPY MEAL!! ;-)

I believe you have to meet people where they are. Two steps closer is usually better than one step behind.


Thank you to McDonalds for selling me the Happy Meal components so I could make this post.  Please do not put a “DO NOT SELL TO THIS WOMAN” photo behind all of your cash registers in America. :-D

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