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97 Percent of Kids' Meals Fail to Meet Nutritional Guidelines

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 10:06 AM EDT

For years, health groups have been trumpeting about the childhood obesity crisis in the United States right now. Children who are overweight have a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death. However, it seems that many chain restaurants have missed the memo. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), many chain restaurants have kid's meals that are loaded in calories, fat and sodium.

According to USA Today, the government recommends that children between the ages of four and 10 eat between 1,200 and 2,200 calories per day. The National Restaurant Association's voluntary initiative program, Kids LiveWell, recommends that healthy kids' meals contain 600 calories or fewer, receive 35 percent or fewer of their total calories from fat or sugar and contain no more than 770 milligrams of sodium. The program also emphasizes whole-grain, low-fat dairy products, lean protein, fruit and vegetables.

However, in an analysis of the nutrition information of 34 of the top chain restaurants in the country, the center found that many restaurants fell short. Some restaurants' kids meals contained over 1,000 calories. A whopping 91 percent of kids' meals did not meet the standards of the Kids LiveWell program; nine of the top chains, including McDonald's, lack a single kids' meal that meets the standards of the program. Even still, according to Fox News, the findings of the study were a marginal improvement over 2008; in 2008, kids' meals failed the test for healthy standards 99 percent of the time, while this report found that kids' meals failed to meet healthy standards 97 percent of the time.

Some restaurants are making improvements though. All of Subway kids' meals are served with apple slices and water, juice or 1% low-fat milk, and meet nutrition standards for calories, sodium and fat. The National Restaurant Association says that they have rapidly expanded the offerings of the Kids LiveWell program since 2011, with 130 brands now offered at 40,000 restaurant locations.

Still, there is a lot of work let to be done; all of the top chains could do well to add more whole grains and vegetables. It is important to make sure that children develop healthy eating habits at an early age because they will affect their health and diet for the remainder of their lives.

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