A highly healthy resolution for your family in 2016 would be to slowly reduce the number of trips you make to fast food restaurants. Why? Well, there are only a dozen or so healthful kids’ meals out of thousands of possible combinations at the nation’s popular fast-food chains, at least according to a new comprehensive analysis.
Researchers at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity reviewed the nutritional information on more than 3,000 kids’ meal combinations at eight fast-food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Sonic, KFC, Taco Bell and Dairy Queen.
The assessment evaluated whether the meals had healthful foods and didn’t exceed the recommended limits in categories such as calories and sodium.
They also hired people to order kids’ meals at 250 restaurants nationally from five chains to determine what is being served as the default choice.
The findings were released at an American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Denver and revealed:
- 12 meal combos met the nutrition criteria for preschoolers; 15 combos met the criteria for elementary kids.
- Another 20 meal combinations met kids’ calorie goal but were too high in at least one area, such as sodium.
- The calories in kids’ meals ranged from about 300 to 1,000.
- Teens purchase 800 to 1,100 calories in a fast-food meal, about half a day’s worth of calories.
- Kids 2 to 12 typically order foods with about half a day’s sodium.
- Some chains do not offer 100% juice or milk.
- Most fast-food chains offer at least one healthful side dish and beverage, but employees usually automatically give customers french fries and soda as the default option. The exception is Subway, which promotes its healthy choices 60% of the time.
Making the healthy choices the default option in kids’ meals would cut children’s intake by billions of calories a year, says Yale’s Marlene Schwartz. That’s important because about 84% of parents report taking their child to a fast-food restaurant at least once a week, according to a survey of parents.
Kids today are bombarded with ads for fast food on TV and the Internet, says Yale’s Jennifer Harris. Teens see five fast-food TV ads a day; elementary students see four; and preschoolers see three.
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2015. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.