Not many people expect chain restaurants to be super healthy – but would it surprise you to learn that a whopping 97% of meals on the kid menu fail to meet nutritional standards?
A new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that the overwhelmingly majority of children’s meal options at chain restaurants in the US do not meet the recommended standards for nutrition developed by health experts.
In fact, 91% of the meals served at places like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday’s do not even meet the nutrition standards voluntarily set by the restaurant industry’s Kids LiveWell program.
“The meals flunked across the board,” said Margot Wootan, the organization’s Director of Nutrition Policy in a press release. “Most were too high in calories, too high in saturated fat and sodium, whole grains were very rare.”
The study found only one chain restaurant (out of the top 50 in the country) that made the grade when it comes to healthy choices: Subway restaurants’ Fresh Fit For Kids meal combinations, which consist of apple slices served with kid-sized sub sandwiches and low-fat milk or bottled water instead of soda.
“It’s as if chain restaurants haven’t heard that there’s a childhood obesity epidemic,” Wootan continued. “[They] seem stuck in a time warp, serving up the same old meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda.”
In the meantime, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the past 30 years.
Wondering what to avoid? Here are some of the most unhealthy and least kid-friendly options commonly found on kid’s menus:
1. Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with French Fries and 2% Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62 grams of total fat, 21 grams of saturated fat and 2,340 milligrams of sodium.
2. Chili’s Pizza with French Fries and Chocolate Milk has 1,120 calories, 43.5 grams of total fat, 19.5 grams of saturated fat and 2,025 milligrams of sodium.
3. Denny’s Jr. Cheeseburger and French Fries has 980 calories, 55 grams of total fat, 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,110 mg of sodium. Denny’s does not include beverages with kids’ meals.
4. Ruby Tuesday’s Mac & Cheese, Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Fruit Punch has 865 calories, 46 grams of total fat and 1,752 mg of sodium. Ruby Tuesday’s does not disclose saturated or trans-fat content on its menus or website.
5. Dairy Queen’s Chicken Strips, Kid’s Fries, Sauce, Arctic Rush (a frozen drink) and Dilly Bar has 1,027 calories, 45 grams of total fat, 15 grams of saturated fat and 1,733 mg of sodium.