Friday, August 8, 2008

Obesity in Kids: What Parents Can Do

"Nearly every single possible combination of the children's meals at KFC, Taco Bell, Sonic, Jack in the Box, and Chick-fil-A is too high in calories," according to Margo Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who released a new report, "Kids Meals: Obesity on the Menu" on Aug. 4 at a press conference at the National Press Conference in Washington, DC.

Wootan explained that 93% of 1,474 possible choices at 13 top chains exceed 430 calories—an amount that is one-third of what the Institute of Medicine recommends that children aged 4 through 8 should consume in a day.

The problem, Wootan explains, is that kids are eating out more than ever and when they do they consume twice as many calories as when they eat a meal at home due to the extra saturated fat, less fiber and calcium in fast food meals vs. home-cooked ones.

Here are some other scary facts:

• Chili's has 700 possible kids' meal combinations, but 94% are too high in calories (including country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk for 1020 calories; and cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade for 1000 calories).
• KFC has a variety of side items, but their "Laptop Meals," consisting of popcorn chicken, baked beans, a biscuit, Teddy Grahams, and fruit punch has 940 calories.
• Most of the kids' meals at McDonald's and Wendy's are also too high in calories, as are the those at Burger King (92%), Dairy Queen (89%), and Arby's (69%).

Subway's kids' meals came out on the top of the study, and only a third of its Fresh Fit for Kids meals, which include a mini-sub, juice box, and apple slices, raisins, or yogurt, exceed the 430-calorie threshold.

"People may not get a heart attack until their 50s or 60s, but arteries begin to clog in childhood," explains Wootan. "Most of the kids' meals appear to be designed to put America's children on the fast track to obesity, heart attack, or diabetes."


• Wootan and the CSPI suggest that chain restaurants reformulate their existing menu items to reduce calories, saturated and trans fat, and salt.
• Chain restaurants should also reformulate their existing menu items and add healthy options like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
• They should also provide nutrition information on menus and menu boards, as is required by menu labeling policies passed in New York City, San Francisco, and Portland.

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