Happy Meals with the salt of 13 portions of fries and a side dish with the sugar of two Twinkies: Watchdog warns 'healthy' kids' options are anything but
22:39 GMT, 14 June 2012
A new report shows how a number of major fast food chains are falling short on their pledge to offer healthier options for children.
Last year, 53 restaurant chains agreed to offer at least one 'healthful' entree and one 'healthful' side dish on every menu as part of an initiative called Kids LiveWell.
But the Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine (PCRM) revealed today that the 'healthy' options offered by Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Denny’s and Sonic are loaded with calories, sodium and cholesterol.
The healthy option McDonald's cheeseburger Happy Meal (which also comes with fries, fruit and low-fat milk), is loaded with fat and cholesterol and contains more salt than 13 orders of kids fries
Rounding out the list of fast food chains with worst children's meals was McDonalds, which did not sign up to the Kids LiveWell pledge.
The worst culprit, the PCRM found, was Chick-fil-A, which launched a Grilled Nuggets Meal (served with low-fat chocolate milk and waffle potato
fries) as a healthier alternative to traditional nuggets.
Unfortunately it still contains 840mg sodium, and the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac.
Also on the list was the Sonic Kids’ Jr Burger Meal, which has the equivalent sugar of two Twinkies thanks to a caramel dipping sauce served with otherwise healthy apple slices.
And at fast food giant
McDonalds, which announced its own pledge last year to make its kids' meals more healthy, offers a cheeseburger Happy Meal that has the same sodium content
as 13 orders of McDonald's kids' fries.
Burger King's Hamburger Kids Meal may
seem harmless with just apple slices and fat-free milk by way of
accompaniment, but PCRM dieticians found that it had almost as much
cholesterol as six slices of pork bacon in total.
Misleading: Chick-fil-A (left) and Burger King (right) both signed up to the Kids LiveWell pledge last year – but appear to be falling short on their pledge to offer more healthy options for children
And Denny's Build Your Own Jr Grand Slam is loaded with processed meat and contains almost 100 more
milligrams of sodium than the government recommends children consume at
The report explained: 'Restaurants are increasingly marketing “healthy” versions of kids meals,
but often these meals feature the same unhealthy entrees paired with
healthier sides, like apple slices instead of french fries.
those apple slices, kids are still getting cholesterol-laden chicken,
artery-clogging cheeseburgers, and cancer-promoting processed meats,' it warned.
and fat-free plain or chocolate milk is often offered as a “healthier”
beverage option, but it still contributes to a meal’s
overall cholesterol and sugar counts.'
Salty: Denny's Build Your Own Jr Grand Slam is loaded with processed meat and contains almost 100 more milligrams of sodium than the government recommends children consume at breakfast
PCRM dietitians assessed each meal using nutrition information published on each chain's website.
The meals were evaluated according to each item's calorie content, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and
The organisation warned that by labelling such meals as 'healthy', children are at raised risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
The troubling findings follow a recent study that revealed nearly a quarter of U.S. teens have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, and 16.9 million American children and adolescents are obese.
THE FIVE WORST 'HEALTHY' KIDS' MEALS…
Chick-fil-A Kids Grilled Nuggets Meal
What is it: Six grilled nuggets, waffle potato fries, and low-fat chocolate milk
Nutritional values: 570 calories, 19g fat, 4g saturated fat, 75mg cholesterol, 1,150mg sodium, 23g sugar
The PCRM says: 'Grilled
chicken is the largest source of PhIP, a potent carcinogen that may play
a role in the development of cancer.
Because of the high cholesterol levels in meals like this, the American
Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed a recommendation that all children
have a cholesterol screening performed between the ages of 9 and 11.'
McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal
What is it: Cheeseburger, fries, apple slices, and low-fat white milk
Nutritional values: 520 calories, 20g fat, 8g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 920mg sodium, 22g sugar
The PCRM says: 'The cheeseburger is loaded with unhealthful fat and
cholesterol, which contribute to childhood obesity. And the meal has
more sodium than a child should eat in a meal, according to guidelines
from the IOM.'
Denny's Build Your Own Jr. Grand Slam
What is it: Egg whites, two slices of turkey bacon, hash browns, and orange juice
Nutritional values: 332 calories, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 570mg sodium, 30g sugar
The PCRM says: 'The two pieces of
turkey bacon in this meal are processed meat. Consuming processed meats
increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, according a 2011 study in the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.'
Sonic Kids' Jr Burger Meal
What is it: Jr Burger, apple slices with fat-free caramel dipping sauce, and apple juice
Nutritional values: 550 calories, 17g fat, 6g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 715mg sodium, 42g sugar
The PCRM says: 'The consumption of
added sugars, which are sweeteners added to processed and prepared
foods, has been associated with measures of cardiovascular disease risk
among adolescents, including adverse cholesterol concentrations,
according to a new report from the CDC.'
Burger King’s Hamburger Kids Meal
What is it: Hamburger, fat-free milk, and apple slices
Nutritional values: 380 calories, 10g fat, 4g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 615mg sodium, 24g sugar
The PCRM says: 'This meal features a cholesterol-laden hamburger as the entre. Adding
apple slices to the meal helped Burger King qualify for the Kids
LiveWell program, but the meal contains 40 milligrams of
cholesterol – almost as much as six slices of pork bacon.'