Fast food meals for kids get an “F”
This may not come as a surprise to many parents, but a new study says kids’ menus at most restaurant chains across the country are packed with too many calories, too much fat and too much salt.
But, what may be shocking to learns is the actual percentage of kids’ meals that fail to meet national nutritional standards — 97 percent, according the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
Believe it or not, this is a marginal improvement from 2008, when such meals failed to meet standards 99 percent of the time.
As part of the study, CSPI took a close look at kids meals and combos at 50 top U.S. restaurant chains.
The results highlighted big offenders at some pretty popular spots, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald’s, Panda Express, Dairy Queen, and Popeyes.
The group says each one of the child menus at these restaurants fell short of nutritional recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The meals also failed to meet standards set by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids Live Well Program.
Among the kids’ meals singled out was Applebees’ grilled cheese sandwich, fries and 2% chocolate milk combo, which has 1,210 calories, 62 grams of fat and 2,340 milligrams of salt.
Over at Ruby Tuesday, the mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and fruit punch combo also didn’t fare so well: 870 calories, 46 grams of fat and 1,700 milligrams of sodium, according to the group.
Nutritionist Jaclyn Sprague, who practices at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, says this study is a great reminder for parents because a child’s diet can impact their health long-term.
“Research shows us that eating a healthy diet can help adults and kids ward off health issues, so feeding them healthy meals will have a great impact on their health now and in the future,” she says.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kids consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day to avoid high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and other ailments.
According to USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about one-third of American children are now considered overweight and 17 percent are considered obese.
Back to the Study
As for the 3 percent of restaurants that were cited as being on the right track: Subway was given a nod for its ‘Fresh Fit For Kids’ meal combinations, which includes a kid-sized sub sandwich, apple slices and low-fat milk or bottled water instead of soda.
And Longhorn Steakhouse was highlighted for serving up fruit and veggie sides instead of French fries.
Sprague says the good news is that more chains are offering healthier options for adults and kids.
“We’re starting to see more and more chains offering whole foods and healthier options. This is a good sign that consumer demand for healthier foods is influencing menu options at restaurants.”
Be sure to tune in to the next edition of AdvocateLive featuring Jaclyn Sprague this Friday, April 5, where she will be answering questions ‘Live” about the latest fad diets, best nutrition options and much more.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.