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Breaking News: Excessive consumption of fried fast food is bad for children

August 4, 2008

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released a report that examines the children’s menu at various fast food and fast casual restaurants.  To the surprise of no one, it’s mostly bad news.  The vast majority of children’s fast food meals contain too many calories, too much fat, sugar, and cholesterol, and not enough fruits and veggies.

This is not a surprise, and the report itself is fairly useful.  It lists healthy options for parents who want to utilize the convenience of fast food (think Subway).  It also pushes for the inclusion of calorie counts on menus so parents know what they are feeding their kids.  I actually like this idea; more complete information allows consumers to make more informed decisions, and childhood obesity and its attendant diseases are a serious medical and social concern.  And its not always entirely obvious which is the better choice on a menu.  Would you know that a “Crispy Drumstick” has 130 less calories than the “Popcorn Chicken?” (160 vs 290).  Putting nutritional information on menus would make this difference more obvious.

What bothers me about the report is not the facts it contains, but the analysis of these facts that will undoubtedly follow.  For example, CSPI’s nutrition director says,

“McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, french fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone that fast food is unhealthy.  If parents set the expectation that fast food is not a regular part of the family’s diet but rather an occasional indulgence, children will not expect fast food at every meal.  It seems slightly incredulous to purchase a product for your family every day, then blame the producer of the product when your family expects you to keep purchasing it.   If you make unhealthy food choices the centerpiece of your family’s diet they will begin to expect unhealthy food.  This is not McDonald’s fault, it’s your own.

The real issue that CSPI should be highlighting is educating parents on how to promote a healthy lifestyle that includes the occasional fast food meal.  Blaming fast food companies is a step in the wrong direction.  Expecting more complete, transparent nutritional information from them is not.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashley permalink
    August 5, 2008 8:04 am

    Anyone who is interested in this should check out a book titled, “Eat This, Not That.” Written by the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health Magazine, this guide provides a pretty solid rundown of most fast food and casual dining chain restaurants and examines the better choices for each. No matter how in tune you are with nutrition and dieting, the fact of the matter is that these food establishments probably won’t be totally eliminated from your life. With that in mind, “Eat This, Not That” explains why you should go with the Quarter Pounder over the Premium Grilled Chicken Club at McDonald’s and so on and so forth. So while restaurants have yet to display this information prominently, you can certainly check it out at: http://www.menshealth.com/eatthis/index.php

    And they just came out with another volume for kids too!

  2. August 11, 2008 8:47 am

    Trans Fat As bad as saturated fats are for our health, Trans fats are even worse. Nutritional Menus

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