Most Kids’ Meals at Chain Restaurants Have Too Many Calories, Report Finds

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

Some 93 percent of children’s meals offered at 13 restaurant chains contain more calories than the average child needs in one sitting, according to a new report recently conducted and announced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

CSPI evaluated the nutritional profiles of 1,474 meals against standards devised by the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA‘s joint Dietary Guidelines for America 2005, which say that the average sedentary child aged four to eight should ingest no more than 1,200 calories per day.

The report is an alarming testament to just how unhealthy kids’ meals at many popular restaurants are. For example:

  • 100% of the meals at 5 of the 13 restaurant chains exceeded 430 calories.
  • 45% of the kids’ meals served by the 13 establishments exceed recommendations for trans and saturated fats.
  • 86% of the meals are too high in sodium.
  • 95% of kids’ meals offer sugary soda (CSPI famously called soda "liquid candy" in their 2005 report of the same name.)
  • 84% of restaurants offer the quickie-carb french fries as a side dish, while only 58% offer fruit and just 42% offer vegetables.

CSPI also singles out a few meal combinations for their "Hall of Shame" for being so laden with calories. (For instance, Chili’s country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk were given the thumbs down. This single meal has a whopping 1020 calories, almost all the calories a typical four-to-eight-year-old needs for an entire day. Yikes!)

Since childhood obesity is at such incredibly high levels, it’s disappointing that most kids’ meals sold at chain restaurants are overloaded with calories, fat, quickie carbs and sugar. I wish these places would make more of an effort to include healthier choices in their kids’ menus.

Until that happens, what can parents do to keep their kids’ diets under control? Eat at home!

Thanks to Joan Lowy of the AP for the tip on CSPI’s revealing report.

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