Restaurant kids meals fall way short in nutrition
Many chain restaurants say they've have taken steps to improve the nutritional quality of meals marketed to children. But a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that only about three percent of meals offered to kids in many chain restaurants actually meet recommended nutritional standards.
The reports analyzed 3,500 meals from 41 popular chain restaurants across the country and compared their nutrition content to standards set by the CSPI, an advocacy group. Of all those different meals, 50 percent of them had more than 600 calories, 78 percent included soft drinks and 73 percent offered fries as a side option.
The CSPI’s nutritional standards for children’s meals are slightly more stringent than the ones set by the National Restaurant Association. For example, the CSPI’s guidelines do not allow more than 430 calories and 770 mgs. of sodium in measl marketed to children. They also require at least a half-serving of fruit or vegetables, and one item made from at least 51 percent whole grains.
Of the restaurants analyzed, 19 of them did not have a single menu offering for children that met the CSPI’s nutritional guidelines. But even with the more lenient National Restaurant Association guidelines, 10 restaurants still had no healthy meals to offer to children.
Overall, the CSPI recommends that restaurants provide kids' meals with standard fruit and vegetable side options and more whole grains, and that they also remove sugary drinks and fries from the meals.