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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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Home arrow Blog arrow HOW KIDS GET FAT
On Monday, Aug. 4 2008 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that reviewed children's meals combinations at Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box, Sonic, and Chick-fil-A.  Almost every combination was too high in calories according to the nonprofit public health group. Is it any wonder that there is an 'obesity epidemic' occurring with young children?

The report looked into the nutritional quality of kids' meals at 13 major restaurant chains. CSPI found 93% of 1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains exceed 430 calories - an amount that is one-third of what the National Institute of Medicine recommends that children ages 4 through 8 should consume in a day.

For example, Burger King has a "Big Kids" meal with a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk at 910 calories, and Sonic has a "Wacky Pack" with 830 calories worth of grilled cheese, fries, and a slushie. Chili's Bar and Grill has 700 possible kids' meal combinations, but 658, or 94%, of those are too high in calories. One Chili's meal consisted of country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk contained 1,020 calories, while another comprised of cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade contained 1,000 calories.

Chain restaurants are quick to claim that they offer healthy food choices, but "parents have to navigate a minefield of calories, fat and salt to find them," the report said. The report notes that eating out now accounts for a third of children's daily caloric intake, twice the amount consumed away from home 30 years ago.

"Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America's chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail," CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement. "McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner."

CSPI's report found that 45% of children's meals exceed recommendations for saturated and trans fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease, and 86% of children's meals are high in sodium.

What's even more disturbing is that six other restaurant chains - TGIFriday's, Applebee's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and IHOP (International House of Pancakes) - weren't included in the report because they do not disclose nutrition information about their meals even when asked, the center said.

The report recommends restaurants:

• Provide nutrition on menus and menu boards. New York and San Francisco are among the cities and localities that have adopted menu labeling policies.

• Make fruit or vegetables and low-fat milk or water the default sides instead of French fries and soda for children's meals.

• Reformulate their menu items to reduce calories, saturated and trans fat, and salt, and add more healthy items like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Other restaurant chains included in the report are Wendy's, Dairy Queen, Arby's and Denny's.


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