7, left, and Logan, 5, has lunch with mom Cindy
Waddell at Chick-Fil-A on S Orange Avenue, April 3,
2013. Even though children's nutrition has received
lots of attention the past few years, you're still
more likely to find chicken fingers and fries on kids'
menus than wraps and salads.
Fla. — Even though children’s nutrition has received
lots of attention the past few years, you’re still more
likely to find chicken fingers and fries on kids’ menus
than wraps and salads.
percent of major restaurant-chain children’s meals were
deemed unhealthful in a recent report by the Center for
Science in the Public Interest, a consumer-advocacy group.
think what most restaurants have done is just add one or two
meals that meet nutrition standards and left the rest of the
menu very unhealthy," said Margo Wootan, nutrition
policy director for the Washington-based organization.
"They’re still serving up the same old junk they
Americans spending nearly half of their food budgets on
eating out, restaurants have been under increasing pressure
from government and health advocates to make meals more
healthful, especially for youngsters. Restaurants say they
are making steady progress.
kids are growing out of these meals earlier, and many
parents aren’t exactly clamoring for fewer calories, less
salt and more vegetables. And that’s why many restaurants
are making token changes rather than substantial ones, some
always been this mentality that people don’t go out to eat
healthy," said Julie Casey, an Orlando consultant who
helps restaurants make themselves more child-friendly.
Hancy of Orlando agreed with that last week as her
3-year-old daughter, Henley, ate chicken nuggets and fries
kind of a splurge," Hancy said. "It’s not the
most nutritious meal she’ll eat this week. She’s also 3
and very picky, and it’s something she will eat."
offers a variety of sides for children, including applesauce
and fresh fruit. Last year, it introduced grilled chicken
last week during lunchtime in an Orlando Chick-fil-A,
children were eating fried nuggets, not grilled ones, which
last year made up just one-half of a percent of the chain’s
healthier nuggets were never meant to generate blockbuster
sales, spokesman Mark Baldwin said in an email, but "we
felt it was our responsibility to offer a grilled version of
our nuggets as a healthier alternative for our
make more money selling junk food," said Marion Nestle,
a New York University nutrition and public-health professor
and author of "What to Eat," in an email.
"Until that problem is addressed, I don’t see things
suggested chains should put more energy into making
healthier fare "something more interesting than a plain
grilled piece of chicken."
group’s study looked at every combination of entrees,
sides and drinks for America’s biggest chains. One was
based on how many met the standards established by a panel
of nutritionists for the study. Another was based on how
many met less-stringent standards in a restaurant-industry
program called Kids LiveWell.
criteria included having no more than 430 calories, 35
percent of them from fat, and 770 mg of salt. It also docked
meal combinations with sugar-sweetened drinks. Kids LiveWell
standards are similar but allow 600 calories.
percent of restaurants’ meals met CSPI’s standards.
Fewer than one out of 10 met the KidsLive Well Standards.
has cut the size of its french fries and now includes apples
in all Happy Meals. Still, the report called out the
fast-food giant, saying it was one of several chains having
no meals that met even the restaurant industry’s
Darden Restaurants’ Olive Garden was in the middle of the
pack, though the report noted it offers more-healthful
whole-grain pasta. One percent of its meals met CSPI’s
standards, and 11 percent met those of Kids LiveWell.
Red Lobster was one of the highest-ranking, with only Subway
and IHOP having a greater percentage of meals that got a
CSPI thumbs-up. All of Subway’s meals met the CSPI
standards. At IHOP it was 31 percent and at Red Lobster, 28
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are increasingly conscious of making healthy choices ... and
Darden wants to ensure that those who dine with us find the
choices they desire," Darden said in a statement.
who work closely with the restaurant industry acknowledge
changes may seem slow. But it takes time to test products,
find sources of healthy foods at an affordable cost and even
consider things such as the choking hazards of grapes, said
Orlando dietitian Jo Lichten, who has worked with chains
including Wendy’s and Starbucks.
think we’ve come a long way," she said. "It is a
lot slower than some of the health experts perhaps
slower than Cindy Waddell would like, too. The Orlando nurse
practitioner tries steering her young sons toward healthful
choices when they go out to eat but says it’s not easy.
mostly the same: burgers, hot dogs," she said. "I
think it’s tough on the restaurants to please as many kids