One Healthy Choice Not Enough for Kids' Meals
Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan
July 13, 2011
There's less to the National Restaurant Association's new program for children’s meals than meets the eye. Most restaurants already offer one or two healthy choices—but they are present amidst a minefield of high-calorie, salty, high-fat options. The great majority of choices on children’s menus should be healthy, given that kids are getting one-third of their calories outside the home, and eating out is linked to obesity.
Kids' food and meals at restaurants have become almost synonymous with junk. A 2008 CSPI study found that at the top 25 chain restaurants, 93 percent of the kids’ meals were too high in calories, 45 percent too high in saturated fat, and 86 percent too high in salt.
Restaurants-especially McDonald’s, which is not part of the new initiative-should follow Burger King’s lead and not just shove fries and soft drinks into kids’ meals, but ask parents if they want a fruit or vegetable side dish and milk, juice, or water instead. Our study of McDonald’s found that even though it shows healthier options in its advertising, it usually sticks fries in the box without even asking parents what they want.