Only 3 percent of fast-food meals for kids nutritiousDecember 23rd, 2008 - 3:12 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 23 (IANS) Only three percent of kids’ meals served at fast-food restaurants met federal dietary guidelines in the first ever study to examine the nutrient quality of such meals in a major metro market.Michigan State University’s Sharon Hoerr, a food science and human nutrition researcher, teamed up with economist Sharon O’Donnell and paediatrician Jason Mendoza from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to assess the nutritional status of kids’ meals in the Houston market.
The small percentage of meals that did meet dietary guidelines included fruit as a side dish and milk, and nearly all were deli-sandwich meals. They also had about one-third the fat, one-sixth the added sugars, twice the iron and three times the amount of vitamin A and calcium as did meals not meeting the criteria.
“This report is the first to characterise and compare the nutrient quality of all combinations of fast-food kids’ meals in a major metropolitan market,” Hoerr said. “Because 25 percent of children aged four to eight years consume fast food on a typical day, the diet quality of kids’ meals offered by fast-food companies contributes significantly to their overall health and well-being.
“Two trends motivate the need for an evaluation of the nutrient quality of fast-food kids’ meals: the increased prevalence of childhood obesity and the amount of food consumed away from home,” said Hoerr.
The team assessed the quality of kids’ meals in the fourth largest US city by using nutrient values provided by the major fast food companies, the seven nutrient criteria from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and dietary guidelines for sodium, fibre, added sugar and trans-fat.
“We chose Houston because its fast-food restaurants include 12 of the 13 national and regional fast-food companies, represented by 477 restaurants that sell kids meals,” O’Donnell said. “Virtually every meal combination is offered in this market, so it provides a pretty comprehensive snapshot of what’s out there.”
Of the meals that did not meet the NSLP guidelines, more than 65 percent exceeded guidelines for total fat, 75 percent were deficient in calcium, 82 percent were deficient in iron and 85 percent were deficient in vitamin A, said a Michigan State release.
“This suggests that parents should carefully read the nutrition information to determine what is included in these meals,” Hoerr said. “Sparing use of dipping sauces and other condiments will also help to keep sodium, added sugars and fat low.”
The study was recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.