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Fast Food Kids

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 5:22pm

Long before kids learn their ABCs they know exactly what the letter "M" signifies, as long as it's in the shape of golden arches.

That's thanks in part to the many fast food ads out there, but as new research shows it's often up to moms and dads to make sure their kids' on-the-go meals are as healthy as possible.

Ordering a meal that's both tasty and healthy for kids can be difficult according to the research from yale university.

"One of the problems of the children's meals is they tend to have large serving sizes, and have too many calories for children of the ages that they're targeted to," explains researcher Dr. Marlene Schwartz.

The study focused on the menus and marketing techniques of 12 of the nation's largest food chains.

Using federal nutrition guidelines, the study found that out of more than 3,000 meal choice combinations, just 12 met those guidelines for the recommended amounts of fat, sodium and calories for preschoolers.

Places like McDonald's do offer healthier side items like fruit with their kids' meals.

Still, according to the study, patrons automatically received the most popular side item: French fries.

The companies involved say their ads targeted to kids meet certain nutrition requirements.

In a prepared statement, a McDonald's executive pointed to the company's happy meal that includes apples and low-fat milk, saying:

"100 percent of our children's advertising in the U.S. features dietary choices that fit within the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

The ads appear to work.

Nearly half of the kids in the study asked their parents to go to a fast food restaurant every week, and a majority of mom and dads took them.

The Rudd study also found the average preschooler sees about three fast food advertisements every day.

The sandwich chain Subway did well in the study, offering fruit and yogurt as side items for kids.

In a prepared statement the National Restaurant Association, which oversees the industry, said:

"Nutritious offerings in childrens' meals is the number one food trend in quick-service restaurants."

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