Aug. 4, 2008 -- Most kids' fast food meals are unhealthy, loaded with too
many calories and too much fat and sodium, according to a report issued today
by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"You can hunt around and you will find a few [kids'] meals that are
nutritionally pretty good," says Michael Jacobson, PhD, executive director
of the CSPI, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. "But the vast
majority of meals are too high in calories, saturated fat, or sodium. They are
all made with refined white flour rather than whole wheat flour -- not the kind
of meals we ought to be encouraging people to eat."
But spokespeople from the restaurant industry disagree, saying that menus
have improved nutritionally in recent years, giving diners a choice of
Kids' Fast Food Meals: Report Detail
CSPI's researchers, led by Margo G. Wootan, the center's nutrition policy director, assessed the nutrition of
children's meals from 13 different restaurant chains.
They looked at all the possible children's meal combinations -- all the ways
that an entree, side item, and beverage could be combined -- and came up with
1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains.
Then they compared the options with a set of nutritional standards. The meal
should not have more than one-third of the daily requirement for the average
child aged 4-8, or not more than 430 calories. Fat should not be more than 35%
of calories, with saturated and
trans fat no more than 10% of calories. They looked at added sugars and
sodium, with cutoffs for each.
Kids' Fast Food Meals: The Hall of Shame
Ninety-three percent of the 1,474 options had more than 430 calories, they
found. Forty-five percent of the options were too high in saturated and trans
fat, and 86% were too high in sodium.
Five meal choices earned CSPI's "Hall of Shame" award. On that
Chili's country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples, and chocolate
milk, with 1,020 calories
Chili's cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade, with 1,000
KFC's popcorn chicken, baked beans, biscuit, fruit punch, and Teddy
Grahams, with 940 calories
Burger King's double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk, with 910
Sonic's grilled cheese, fries, and slushie, with 830 calories
Kids' Fast Food Meals: Healthier Choices
Some meals did meet the CSPI's nutritional criteria. Among the options:
Subway's ham mini sub with juice box and apple slices or raisins; roast
beef mini sub and juice box with any side, including apple slices or raisins or
yogurt; turkey mini sub and juice box with apples slices or raisins or
Chili's grilled chicken sandwich with apple juice and corn kernels (or
mandarin oranges or pineapple)
Denny's pancakes without meat, with maple syrup; macaroni and cheese, and
Arby's popcorn chicken or junior roast beef sandwich with fruit cup and