“Nearly all of the meal possibilities offered to kids at America’s top chain restaurants are of poor nutritional quality,” according to a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
“One out of every three American children is overweight or obese, but it’s as if the chain restaurant industry didn’t get the memo,” said CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan. “Most chains seem stuck in a time warp, serving up the same old meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda.”
The report, “Kids’ Meals: Obesity on the Menu,” claims that 97 percent of the nearly 3,500 meal possibilities analyzed failed to meet CSPI nutritional criteria for 4- to 8-year-olds, while 91 percent failed to meet National Restaurant Association (NRA) guidelines for its Kids LiveWell program. CSPI recommends that kids’ meals “must not exceed 430 calories, more than 35 percent of calories from fat, or more than 10 percent of calories from saturated plus trans fat.” Kids LiveWell guidelines are similar, with an allowance of 600 calories per meal; both CSPI and NRA recommend no more than 770 mg of sodium per meal. Of the kids’ meals analyzed, 86 percent apparently contained more than 430 calories, 50 percent contained more than 600 calories, and about 66 percent exceeded the two groups’ sodium standard.
CSPI advocates that restaurants (i) “participate in NRA’s Kids LiveWell program and reformulate meals so that “all meet calorie, sodium, fats, and other nutrition standards”; (ii) “offer more fruit and vegetable options and make those options the default side dishes with every children’s meal”; (iii) “remove soft drinks and other sugary drinks from children’s menus”; (iv) “offer more whole grains as a part of children’s meals”; (v) “provide calorie information for all menu items on menus or menu boards”; and (vi) “market only healthy options to children through all marketing approaches used by the restaurant, including through mass media, websites, in-store promotions and toy giveaways, school-related activities, and other venues.”