Kids' restaurant menu items often include excess calories

By admin
09 December 2016

That surprise in your child’s meal isn't a toy - it's a big calorie count.

Non-profit research organisation RAND Corporation has conducted an investigation into 200 restaurant chains across the United States, and discovered that most kids’ menu items exceed the calorie counts recommended by nutrition experts.

The average a la carte item on a kid's menu contained 147 per cent more calories than what was recommended, with researchers claiming that the "current kid's menu offerings are likely to be partly responsible for childhood obesity."

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When it came to the menus, the item that most often exceeded the calorie guidelines was fried potatoes, with the average calorie count for the popular side dish being 287, nearly triple the recommended amount. Interestingly, the researchers found that McDonald's was the only chain in the study that served fried potatoes in the recommended 100-calorie portions.

"It's important to examine the caloric value of what kids are served because the chances are they will eat all or most of what they are served," said lead author Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at RAND. "Overeating - consuming more calories than are needed for normal growth and maintenance - is a very common problem and a key contributing factor to childhood obesity."

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A consensus of 15 child nutrition experts who convened for the study recommended a maximum of 300 calories from main dishes for kids' meals. Other recommendations include 100 calories for a serving of fried potatoes, 150 calories for soups, appetisers and snacks, and 150 calories for vegetables and salads that included added sauces. No recommended limit was made for vegetables and fruits that have no added oils or sauces. Kids’ meals also should include no more than 110 calories of unflavoured milk. The entire meal should not exceed 600 calories, researchers warned.

Cohen added that the restaurant industry now has an opportunity to embrace the calorie guidelines established by child nutrition experts by adjusting kids' menu offerings.

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"Ultimately, this could mean good business for restaurants," she said.

The findings were published in journal Nutrition Today.

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