Restaurants missed the mark on kids’ meals

The Lempert Report
May 24, 2013

Children's meals at restaurants tend to offer easy and appealing choices, but are they healthy enough?

Children's meals at restaurants tend to offer easy and appealing choices, but are they healthy enough? Not according to a recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Results showed that 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. The report, titled "Kids' Meals: Obesity on the Menu”, found that among the 3,500 combinations surveyed, kids' meals failed to meet nutritional standards 97 percent of the time. This is however, a marginal improvement over 2008 when kids’ meals failed to meet standards 99 percent of the time. These are based upon standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutritional recommendations, as well as those set by the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell Program. How important is the nutritional quality of kids’ restaurant meals? Very important! The report, also points out that children consume on average 25 percent of their daily calories at fast food and other restaurants. So healthy options are a must. 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. Here's some of the criteria for healthful kids meals taken from National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program: 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. The Lempert Report believes there is a huge opportunity for prepared foods to cater to parents and kids by providing reliably tasty, healthy and kid friendly meals, and setting up sample booths and promotions year round. Parents always need a helping hand!