Surprise! Kids' Menus Aren't Exactly Healthful

fatkid.jpg The Center for Science in the Public Interest (you know, the same folks who have been really pushing the trans fat regulation) released a report earlier this week on the calorie counts of kids' meals at fast food and casual chain restaurants. What the group found, not surprisingly, was that almost all kids' meals exceed the recommended 430 calories-per-meal limit.

“Parents want to feed their children healthy meals but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner.”

Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids’ meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in sodium. That’s alarming, according to CSPI, because a quarter of children between the ages of five and ten show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure.

After the jump, the worst offenders, for shock value:

• Chili's country-fried chicken crispers with cinnamon apples and chocolate milk: 1020 calories
• Chili's cheese pizza, homestyle fries plus a lemonade: 1000 calories
• KFC's popcorn chicken, baked beans, biscuit, fruit punch, and Teddy Grahams: 940 calories
• BK's double cheeseburger (since when is that on the kids' menu?), fries and chocolate milk: 910 calories
• Sonic's grilled cheese, fries and a slushie: 830 calories

What's a parent to do? Well, for starters, steer clear of these restaurants, since the adult dishes are notoriously calorie-laden as well. Another idea: share your meal with the kids. It's a win-win situation really; you consume fewer calories, your kid gets something more interesting than the standard chicken nuggets and fries, and you save money. Nowhere is it written that children's diets need to consist solely of burgers, fries and unnaturally shaped pieces of fried chicken. They might even like sampling from the grown-up menu.

Option #3: go to Subway. The sandwich chain had the most nutritionally acceptable options for kids with juice boxes, apple slices, raisins and yogurt to accompany mini-subs.

Obesity on the Kids' Menus at Top Chains [CSPI]
Kids' Meals: Obesity on the Menu [CSPI]

Photo: AFP via ABC Australia

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