Most kids’ meals in chain restaurants are unhealthy choices, even though children get one-quarter of their daily calories from restaurants. Of almost 3,500 combo meals offered in 34 restaurants, a stunning 91 percent didn’t meet the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) standards set forth under their Kids Live Well industry policy. That’s the perhaps not-too-astounding news revealed last week in a study performed for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
It’s the second time that the CSPI has done the study, which was first done in 2008. At that time, only a pitiful one percent of all kids’ meal combos met what they considered to be an acceptable nutritional quality for children.
Now, with progress moving at the speed of snail, about three percent of the chain kids’ meal combos meet the standard. Ouch.
CSPI’s director of nutrition policy, Margo G. Wootan, wasn’t happy. Calling the results “dismal,” she told The New York Times: “To go from 1 percent of kids’s meals being healthy to 3 percent over four years — it’s as if the restaurant industry hasn’t heard there is an obesity epidemic in this country.”
Lead author Dr. Ameena Batada noted that the chains are doing slightly better at cutting calories and sodium, but they’ve actually gone backwards when it comes to cutting back on saturated fat.
To be fair, the test was awfully hard to pass. If a meal was served with “a beverage of poor nutritional quality,” it was automatically failed. Those poor quality beverages would, of course, be soft drinks, which are offered as part of virtually every combo meal served on the planet, whether marketed to adults or kids. Whole milk, sports drinks, and sweet tea were also classed in that category.
Any meal containing a deep fat fried item was also automatically failed.
But just in case you think it’s safer to eat at home, the US Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on a new outbreak of E. coli last week. The toxic microbes were found in Farm Rich frozen products like mini pizzas which were specifically marketed to children.
Whether the combos are eaten in a restaurant or at home, meeting the CSPI’s high standards is going to be a tough job for most kids’ meals.
[hamburger photo courtesy “theimpulsivebuy” via Wikipedia Commons]