On any given day, one in three American kids will eat at a fast food restaurant. In light of that shocking statistic, it becomes clear that the items offered in popular fast food kids’ meals can have a real impact on our children’s diets over the long haul.
Leading fast food chains were already well aware of criticism that their unhealthy restaurant kids’ meals were contributing to childhood obesity, and many of them promised several years ago to clean up their act. For example, since 2013, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Dairy Queen have pledged to remove sodas from their kids’ meal menu boards, while McDonald’s also promised to promote healthier drinks and side items. Since 2010, Subway has only listed healthier sides and drinks as options with its kids’ meals and in 2014, the chain further promised to offer only apples as the default side for kids’ meals, and water or low-fat milk as the default drink.
These pledges are laudable and important, but are they actually being carried out on the ground? In a new study released today by the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the answer is decidedly mixed.
This infographic nicely sums up the study’s findings:
Here’s what Jennifer Harris, Rudd’s Director of Marketing Initiatives and lead author of the report, had to say in the organization’s press release:
“Our evaluation found that restaurants have increased the number of healthier side and drink options available with kids’ meals, but customers often received sugary soda and other soft drinks and/or french fries automatically when they ordered a kids’ meal. When restaurant personnel suggested the healthier options, they typically offered them as one of several choices, often together with unhealthy options.”
“Restaurant chains should do more to actively encourage customers to purchase their healthier kids’ meal drinks and sides at the point-of-sale. Offering healthy drinks and sides as the default with kids’ meals would make them the easiest choice for parents and help improve the nutrition quality of fast food consumed by children.”
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