There was an article on msnbc.com yesterday about how kids prefer McDonald's food over other food (and when I was working, kids always recognized the Golden Arches but not always the ABC's). Although we could discuss the nutritional value of fast food...the article was more concerned with advertising and regulating advertising to children.
Now my kids, especially the little ones, don't really watch a lot of commercial television. We do a lot of DVD's, PBS, and the preschool blocks on Nick and Disney (which show the programs without any commercials). And I thought that was pretty safe, however, the sponsors of PBS, for example, are McDonald's and Chucky Cheese (among others, Dannon, Juicy Juicy....). So my kids to see this. Fortunately, we don't eat fast food often (although a good Steak and Shake dinner is a treat) my little ones don't even know what McDonald's or Chucky Cheese serves...but they do know they exist and talk about them. We also look through magazines together and there are ads in there as well. And we drive, so the kids see billboards. You just can't escape them.
So, instead of shielding our kids from the outside world, we teach them that you can see cool stuff on TV and in magazines but you don't NEED everything. You may ask for special things on your birthday and holidays BUT you may still not get them. And we talk about making good and healthy choices with our meals (e.g. while at Steak and Shake a couple weeks ago, my son choose apples and grapes over fries). And they know that my cooking is better than anywhere else anyways!
**Remember that parents make the ultimate decisions for many, many years (my 3yo isn't driving himself to McDonald's or running over to Target for a new toy). Plus, I am the one with the money (although my daughter has some money that she is allowed to do whatever she pleases with...but we do consult on major purchases).
There will always be corporations (and the government) telling us what we think we need and what we should buy and eat....but we can always make the choice ourselves...so we need to give our kids the skills to make those decisions.