Restaurant chains serve up childhood obesity
Restaurants aren’t doing a great job offering healthy meals for kids. That may be obvious when your family eats at places like McDonald’s or Ruby Tuesday’s.
But a new study confirms it. Commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, the study found 97-percent of restaurant children’s meals don’t meet standards set by the Center’s panel of nutrition and health experts.
Most meals didn’t even meet the National Restaurant Association’s own standards: 91-percent didn't offer healthy options defined by the Association's Kids LiveWell program.
The Center’s director of nutrition policy, Margo Wootan, told the New York Times, “These were pretty dismal results.”
She says a similar study in 2008 found that 99-percent of restaurant meals offered for children didn’t meet the standards. Some restaurants have been advertizing healthier meals, so Wootan expected more significant improvement.
“It’s one thing if they had gone from 99 percent unhealthy to 50-50,” she said. “But to go from 1 percent of kids’ 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.”
On the positive side, in 2008, only 30-percent of restaurants had at least one meal that met the expert nutrition standards. By 2012, that had risen to 44-percent.
The study gave Subway high marks, especially because the kids’ meals do not offer soda and sugared drinks. Instead, they suggest water or low-fat milk.
On(in) the other hand, Applebee’s grilled cheese on sourdough bread with fries and a 2-percent chocolate milk weighed in at 1210 calories, almost half from fat. That’s nearly three times the amount of calories allowed in the Center’s nutrition standards for 4- to 8-year-olds.
Applebee’s parent company, DineEquity, told the NYTimes that the menu offers other kids’ choices that are “significantly” lower in calories, fat and sodium.
Many restaurants say they’re working to improve the nutrition of meals for children. But the study doesn’t paint a healthy picture.
Tags: children, food, health, obesity, restaurants