Chain Restaurants Impact on Kids’ Meals and their Health

Kids Meals Get an “F” in Nutrition at Chain Restaurants

Nearly all of the meal possibilities offered to kids at America’s top chain restaurants are of poor nutritional quality. A report released today found that fried chicken fingers, burgers, French fries, and sugar drinks continue to dominate kids’ meal setting, with 97% of the nearly 3,500 meal possibilities not meeting CSPI‘s nutrition criteria for 4- to 8-year-olds.

And if you don’t believe CSPI, ask the National Restaurant Association (NRA): 91% of kids’ meals at America’s major chains do not even meet the nutritional standards of the industry lobbying group’s Kids LiveWell program.

One out of every three American children is overweight or obese, but it’s as if the chain restaurant industries didn’t get the message. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention” and addressed these health concerns for further research and studies to use in the fight against childhood obesity.

Two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, representing young and old, urban and rural, and majority and minority populations. This epidemic of excess weight is associated with major causes of chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesity-related illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.

Most chains seem stuck in this time warp, serving the same dated meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda. I know that they can come up with healthier, cost-effective, nutritionally beneficial meals that are more current than these.

One chain that has gotten the message is Subway. All eight of Subway restaurants’ Fresh Fit for Kids meal combinations met CSPI’s nutrition criteria. Subway is the only restaurant chain that does not offer sugar drinks as an option with its kids’ meals, instead including low-fat milk or bottled water along with apple slices with all of its kid-sized subs.

“Our goal has always been to provide the most nutritious, balanced kids meals in the industry and we are proud to be recognized by CSPI for achieving that goal,” said Lanette Kovachi, corporate dietitian for the Subway brand.

To meet the CSPI’s nutrition criteria, kids’ meals must be at or below 430 calories, no more than 35% of calories from fat, or no more than 10% of calories from saturated plus trans-fat. Meals that meet CSPI’s criteria cannot have more than 35% added sugars by weight or more than 770mg. of sodium. The criteria require meals to make a proactive nutritional impact either by providing at least half a serving of fruit or vegetable, including an item that is 51% or more whole grain, or including specified levels of vitamins or fiber. CSPI’s criteria exclude sugar drinks in favor of water, juice, or low-fat milk. The NRA’s standards are quite similar, though they allow more calories.

Here are some of the least healthy kids’ meals available at chain restaurants:

–        Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2% Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62g of total fat (46% of kcal), 21g of saturated fat (16%), and 2,340mg. of sodium. That meal has nearly three times as many calories, and three times as much sodium, as CSPI’s criteria for four-to eight-year-olds allow.

–        Chili’s Pepperoni Pizza with Homestyle Fries and Soda has 1,010 calories, 45g of total fat (40% of kcal), 18g of saturated fat (16% of kcal, and about as much saturated fat as an adult should consume in an entire day), and 2,020mg. of sodium.

–        Denny’s Jr. Cheeseburger and French Fries has 980 calories, 55g of total fat (50% of kcal), 20g of saturated fat (18%) and 1,110mg. of sodium. Denny’s does not include beverages with kids’ meals.

–        Ruby Tuesday’s Mac ‘n Cheese, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Fruit Punch has 860 calories, 46g of total fat (48% of kcal) and 1,730mg. of sodium. Ruby Tuesday’s does not disclose saturated or trans-fat content on its menus or website.

–        Dairy Queen’s Chicken Strips, Kids’ Fries, Sauce, Arctic Rush (a Slushee-type frozen drink) and Dilly Bar has 1,030 calories, 45g of total fat (39% of kcal), 15g of saturated fat (13% of calories), and 1,730mg of sodium.

At 19 chain restaurants reported on, not a single possible combination of the items offered for children met the CSPI’s nutrition standards. Out of these restaurants, 9 (that included McDonald’s Popeye’s, Chipotle, and Hardee’s) not a single kids’ meal met the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell standards. At Wendy’s, only 5% of 40 possible kids’ meals met the CSPI’s standards. Most of these items were either too high in sodium or saturated fat. At Burger King, just 20% of the 15 possible kids’ meals met CSPI’s criteria.

The last time the CSPI reviewed the nutritional quality of kids’ meals at chain restaurants, in 2008, it is reported that these restaurants have made little progress. In 2008, just 1% of kids’ meals met the CSPI nutrition standards, compared to only 3% in 2012. Only one-third of the chains had at least 1 meal that met the nutritional standards in 2008. This number scaled to 44% in 2012- good, but not great improvement.

While the CSPI report recommends that companies consider several changes, it also encourages the chains to participate in the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program. For these restaurants to do so, they would need to restructure their kids’ meals to meet these standards. The bottom line is that these restaurants should offer more fruits and veggies, and to offer these fresh options as an alternative side to French fries. Whole grains should be offered more, as well as removing soda or other sugar sweetened beverages from the kids’ menus. And just because Subway was the only chain restaurant to meet CSPI’s criteria for all kids’ meals, it should increase the whole grain content of its breads and continue to lower sodium.

The long-term problem I see in this article is that the chain restaurant industry is conditioning children to accept a really narrow range of food options. More chains are adding fruits and veggies at this point, but realistically- a lot more could offer these options. And given the childhood obesity epidemic that America is currently attempting at combating- you would think that more restaurants would want to take action in the health of their future consumers.

CBS News Clip

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This is a standard Subway Kids’ Meal option

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Southern Grocery Shopping

Southern Grocery Cart

It’s easy to throw healthy eating habits out the window when you’re away from home and your regular routine. Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD talks about ways to create a healthy winter routine while staying on a budget.

Plan ahead and stick to a list
Being prepared before you grab your grocery cart will help you avoid impulse purchases. It also gives you time to look at flyers, find sales and clip coupons. Try taking advantage of no-name products and avoiding shopping while you’re hungry.

Shop in season and avoid being wasteful
Buy in-season foods from local farmer’s markets, which is cheaper, and be resourceful with leftovers, using up excess food before it goes to waste, she says.

Consider vegetarian alternatives
If you study your grocery bill, meat products are often among the most expensive items. Consider planning meals with vegetarian alternatives like lentils, beans and soy. Check out vegetarian websites for heart- and budget-healthy meal ideas, she suggests.

Here are 5 friendly foods and the reasons you should add them to your grocery list:

  1. Fresh, seasonal fruit: A favorite snack to boost energy levels between meals if you feel a little hungry (power of carbs) and allows you to benefit from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  1. Low-fat (1 percent) or non-fat milk: In order to maintain our bone density, we need to consume adequate dairy to receive calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein, which are all essential for bone growth and development.
  1. Whole grains: According to the Journal of Nutrition (2011), oats, barley, rice and quinoa all lower risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well contribute to body-weight management and gastrointestinal health. Try buying whole-grain pasta and remember to look for the words “whole grain” on the label.
  1. Almonds: But just a handful a day, and make them unsalted! A portion-controlled (quarter cup) serving of almonds is excellent for lowering cholesterol because of the unsaturated fats, making them a heart-healthy choice. Almonds are high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and are naturally high in fiber and a good source of protein!
  1. Edamame: Green soybeans, made popular in Japanese cuisine but available in grocery stores, add a nice nutritional punch. These tasty soybeans can be added as a side dish, steamed in the pod or consumed as a snack or appetizer. Nutritionally speaking, they are another heart-healthy source of protein, fiber and vitamins.

http://www.thestar.com/specialsections/snowbirds/article/1301135–fill-your-southern-grocery-cart-with-healthy-foods

http://www.dieteticdirections.com/

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Prostate Cancer and Diet

Prostate Cancer and The Diet

So, recently one of my Dad’s best friends (which means he’s referred to as an Uncle), was diagnosed with stage 2 Prostate Cancer. So, naturally this was pretty hard news to handle, especially being so close to this family friend. I started looking into more information on the specific cancer and these are some things that I found…

Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor in the prostate, the male gland that produces fluid that makes up part of the semen. The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut. It is attached to the bottom of the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The growth and function of the prostate are controlled by male hormones, like testosterone. Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, and is sometimes present for years before symptoms appear. The five-year survival rate for patients with early diagnosis and treatment is close to 100%.

Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer. More than 200,000 new cases occur annually. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, after lung cancer. Roughly, 27,000 deaths are attributed to prostate cancer each year.

The cause of Prostate Cancer varies. A man’s age, ethnicity, and family history are all risk factors that cannot be changed. Research is underway to clarify how risk linked to hormone levels, including testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF), may be changeable. Current research suggests that you can reduce your chances of developing prostate cancer by making healthy dietary choices.

Making diet and lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cancer. Research shows that eating a mostly plant-based diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular physical activity lowers risk of prostate and other cancers.

Experts suggest that some food choices may be linked to prostate cancer. Foods that probably offer protection against prostate cancer include:

  • Foods containing lycopene, an antioxidant. Lycopene is most commonly found in tomatoes and tomato products, and fruits like red or pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava.
    • Lycopene supplements don’t necessarily provide the same health protection benefits as lycopene from food.
    • Foods containing selenium. This mineral is plentiful in Brazil nuts, seafood, meat, and poultry.

Foods that are a probable cause of prostate cancer are:

  • Foods high in calcium. However, as the evidence of cancer risk and diets containing cow’s milk, cheese, and other foods high in calcium seems to be in conflict with findings on other types of cancer, there is no recommendation to change how much you consume.