The American Journal of Preventative Medicine has been studying the nutritional content in children’s meals since 2012, estimating the changes in calories, saturated fat and sodium in the menu items of 45 chain restaurants.
According to the journal, restaurant food is widely consumed by children and associated with many of their poor diets, and while many restaurants have been committed to reducing the nutritional quality of the meals offered, there hasn’t been an industry-wide impact.
Of the kids’ meals researched, the average entrée far exceeded recommendations for sodium and saturated fat, while desserts were as calorie-dense as meals and contained nearly twice the amount of saturated fats as an entrée.
In an article on News-Medical.net, Alyssa Moran, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School says that "Although some healthier options were available in select restaurants, there is no evidence that these voluntary pledges have had an industry-wide impact. As public health practitioners, we need to do a better job of engaging restaurants in offering and promoting healthy meals to kids."
The study’s data was obtained from MenuStat, where researchers examined the nutritional content of 4,016 beverages, entrees, side dishes and desserts offered at 45 of the nation’s top 100 fast food, fast casual and full-service restaurant chains between 2012 and 2015. Fifteen of those studied are Kids LiveWell, an initiative launched in 2011 to improve the quality of restaurant meals for children, restaurant participants.