Healthy Fast Food for Kids a Tall Order?
Watchdog Group Finds Most Kids' Fast Food Meals Are Unhealthy, but Industry Contends Healthy Choices Exist
Kids' Fast Food Meals: Industry Responds
Spokespeople from the fast food industry say they do offer healthful options
for young diners and are trying to improve the offerings even more.
"KFC is proud to offer a variety of Kids Meals for those looking for
lower-calorie, lower-fat options," Rick Maynard, a company spokesman, says
in an email interview. He says that some kids' meals at KFC do offer less than
430 calories, such as a meal of two crispy strips, green beans, Teddy Grahams,
and a diet drink, which totals 380 calories.
In a statement, Heather Krasnow, a spokeswoman for Burger King, says they
offer nutritionally healthy choices, such as the kids' meal launched this
summer -- macaroni and cheese, fresh apple fries, and Hershey's 1% low fat
milk. It totals 315 calories, according to the nutrition guide on the company
The trend among restaurants is to offer consumers more choices and
nutritional information, says Mike Donohue, a spokesman for the National
Restaurant Association. "A 2007 consumer survey [conducted by the
association] showed that four out of five customers said there were more
healthy options available and more food choices available than there were two
Kids' Fast Food Meals: Expert Advice
Besides checking out the nutrition facts of fast food restaurants, what can
"Look for grilled or baked items, such as grilled chicken or grilled
lean burgers, and avoid fried foods," says Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, assistant
professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and
national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"Choose low-fat or skim milk, or 100% fruit juice, over other beverages
that simply provide calories without nutritional value.
"Milk and juices typically come in small portions appropriate for
children," she tells WebMD. "However, sodas and shakes made for kids
are often more than enough for an adult."
Kids' Fast Food Meals: CSPI's Bottom Line
The solution, says Jacobson, is an overhaul of existing menu items to reduce
overall calories, fat, and sodium and to increase options such as fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains.
Another recommendation, he says, is to make fruit or vegetables and low-fat
milk or water the default side dishes instead of french fries and soda for the
kids' meals. Disney does this in its theme parks, Jacobson tells WebMD, and it
has been successful, with more than 70% of parents choosing the healthier
options when those are the default offering.
Restaurants should routinely post nutrition information on menus and menu
boards, as is required by policies passed in New York City, San Francisco,
Portland, Ore., and elsewhere, he says.