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Are Chain Restaurants Good For Children? Menus Fail In Nutrition Values, New Study Says

Update Date: Jan 13, 2017 08:30 AM EST

Chain restaurants in the U.S. that participated in the National Restaurant Association's initiative to improve that quality of menus for children have not made any significant changes, according to a new study. Amount of calories, saturated fat and sodium has not improved since 2011 when the Kids LiveWell initiative was launched.

The study, led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, also found that chain restaurants in the U.S. have sugary drinks that make 80 percent of the beverage options for children. There are healthier options in the menu in some restaurants but it does not affect the industry as a whole, according to Alyssa Moran, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. She urges other health practitioners to engage restaurants in promoting and offering healthy meals to children.

The study also reports that in 2011 and 2012, more than one out of three children and teens go to chain restaurants every day. Eating fast food is usually associated with higher calorie intake with added sugar and saturated fats.

In 2015, more than 150 chain restaurants with 42,000 branches locations in the U.S. participated in Kids LiveWell. They are required to have at least one meal and another in the kid's menu to meet the nutritional guidelines.

Result of the study shows that some menus still exceed the recommended sodium and saturated fat. Desserts have calories almost twice the amount of saturated fats. Sodas, though removed from the menu, were replaced by sugary beverages such as flavoured milks and sweetened teas.

Dana Angelo White, a registered dietician and a clinical assistant professor of sports medicine at Quinnipiac University, said that she was not surprised with the result of the study. She said that sodium and sugar are hard to avoid in highly processed foods offered in chain restaurants.

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