Restaurants Missed the Mark on Kids' Meals, Supermarkets Will Pick Up the Slack

April 18, 2013

CSPI found restaurants falling embarrassingly short on offering healthy kids' meals, find out how your supermarket can pick up the slack, while making a positive impact on your community.

A recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that the children's menus in most US restaurant chains have too many calories, too much salt or fat, and often don’t even provide a hint of fresh produce.

CSPI found that among nearly 3,500 combinations surveyed, kids' meals failed to meet nutritional standards (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutritional recommendations, as well as, standards set by the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell Program) 97 percent of the time.  That was a marginal improvement over 2008 when kids’ meals failed to meet standards 99 percent of the time.

The report, titled “Kids' Meals: Obesity on the Menu” also points out that children consume on average 25 percent of their daily calories at fast food and other restaurants; clearly the nutritional quality of those meals is important. According to the USDA, about one-third of American children are now considered overweight and 17 percent are considered obese. If restaurants aren’t stepping up and doing their part to mitigate childhood obesity the Lempert Report believes there is a large opportunity, not to mention responsibility of supermarkets to fill this gap.

We can learn from the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program, here are some of their criteria for healthful kids meals:

Offer at least one full children’s meal (an entrée, side and beverage) that is 600 calories or less; contains two or more servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; and limits sodium, fats and sugar.

Specifics for Full Kids' Meals:

600 calories or less
? 35% of calories from total fat
? 10% of calories from saturated fat
< 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
? 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
? 770 mg of sodium
2 or more food groups

For more detail from the Kids LiveWell program click here.

The Lempert Report believes there is a huge prepared foods opportunity catering to all parents and kids, providing reliably tasty, healthy and kid friendly meals, and setting up sample booths and promotions year round. Parents always need a helping hand!