December 25, 2008

Nutritious fast-food kids’ meals scarce

Only 3 percent of kids' meals served at fast-food restaurants meet federal dietary guidelines, a team of U.S. researchers found.

Michigan State University's Sharon Hoerr teamed up with economist Sharon O'Donnell and pediatrician Jason Mendoza from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to assess the nutritional status of kids' meals in the Houston market.

This report is the first to characterize and compare the nutrient quality of all combinations of fast-food kids' meals in a major metropolitan market, Hoerr said in a statement. Because 25 percent of children aged 4 to 8 years consume fast food on a typical day, the diet quality of kids' meals offered by fast-food companies contributes significantly to their overall health and well-being.

The resources chose Houston because its fast-food restaurants include 12 of the 13 national and regional fast-food companies and virtually every meal combination is offered in this market, the researchers said.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that of the meals that did not meet National School Lunch Program guidelines more than 65 percent exceeded guidelines for total fat, 75 percent were deficient in calcium, 82 percent were deficient in iron and 85 percent were deficient in vitamin A.

The meals that did meet dietary guidelines included fruit as a side dish and milk, and nearly all were deli-sandwich meals, the study said.