Nearly every possible combination of the children’s meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Sonic, Jack in the Box, and Chick-fil-A are too high in calories.”
Who’d have thought?
When the study says that the meal choices are “too high in calories”, what they mean is this:
Ninety-three percent of 1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains exceed 430 calories—an amount that is one-third of what the Institute of Medicine recommends that children aged four through eight should consume in a day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily caloric intake for girls aged four to eight is 1,200 to 1,800. For boys of the same age, 1,400 to 2,000. A little more than three times 430, but remember: 93% EXCEEDED 430 calories.
Now lets look at some of the really bad combinations at the restaurants included in the study.
Chili’s has 700 possible kids’ meal combinations, but 658, or 94 percent, of those are too high in calories, including one comprised of country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples, and chocolate milk (1,020 calories) and another comprised of cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade (1,000 calories). Burger King has a “Big Kids” meal with a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk (910 calories), and Sonic has a “Wacky Pack” with 830 calories worth of grilled cheese, fries, and a slushie.
KFC has a wide variety of side items, but there are few meal combinations that keep a reasonable ceiling on calories, according to the study. One example of a high-cal combo KFC kid’s meal (the chain calls them “Laptop Meals”) has popcorn chicken, baked beans, biscuit, Teddy Grahams, and fruit punch, which has 940 calories. (KFC has since dropped Baked Cheetos from its kids’ meals, and some outlets vary the number of chicken strips or sides.)
Wow! Those terrible food choices for kids sound a lot like what I talked about in my post: Baby Food to Chicken Fingers: A Disconnect. The center’s director comments on how these choices continually being offered to kids sets them up for a life of bad habits.
“Parents want to feed their children healthy meals but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “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.”
Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids’ meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in sodium. That’s alarming, according to CSPI, because a quarter of children between the ages of five and ten show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure.
“People may not get a heart attack until their 50s or 60s, but arteries begin to clog in childhood,” said Wootan. “Most of these kids’ meals appear to be designed to put America’s children on the fast-track to obesity, disability, heart attack, or diabetes.”
This gives “Happy Meal” a whole new meaning.