June 18, 2018

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Many Restaurant Kid’s Meals Unhealthy

Center for Science in the Public Interest has released a report detailing the nutrition shortfalls of children’s meals offered in restaurants. They studied the types of children’s menu items and the nutritional quality of those foods at the largest restaurant chains in the U.S.

Of the 3,498 meal combinations offered specifically for children, 97% do not meet the expert nutrition standards for children’s meals and 91% do not meet the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell standards. Fifty-six percent of chains offering children’s meals don’t have even one meal that meets nutrition standards. The report also states that the percentage of meals that met nutrition standards increased from 1% to 3% since 2008.

Since Americans eat out much more today than they did 50 years ago, it’s important that those foods provide the nutrition that growing children need. Today, almost half of our food dollars are spent on restaurant foods, up from 26% in 1970.

The types of food most commonly offered for children include fried chicken fingers, burgers, pasta, grilled cheese, fried potatoes, soft drinks, and fruit juices. Fruit and non-potato vegetables were offered in 68% and 53% of restaurant meal choices, respectively. Unfortunately, 86% of the meals have more than 430 calories, which is the standard, and 50% have more than 600 calories. ¬†Excess sodium content is another reason the meals don’t meet the standards. For instance, at Buffalo Wild Wings, the children’s meal of Mini Corn Dogs, French fries, and milk contains 3,200 mg of sodium, twice the recommended intake for an entire day. Forty-seven percent of the meals exceed the total fat limit for children for an entire day.

CSPI recommends that all restaurants offering children’s menu items should reformulate their meals so they meet nutrition standards. They should also remove soft drinks from children’s menus, offer more fruit and vegetable options, along with whole grains, and market healthier choices.

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