Least Healthy Kids’ Meals at Chain Restaurants

According to a new report, 97 percent of meals intended for children flunk nutrition.

A new report released by the DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 97 percent of American chain restaurants' kids' meals do not meet nutritional standards. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user hildaaa.

They may be quick and easy for when you’re on the go, but kids’ meals at popular chain restaurants are seriously unhealthy, according to a new report.

A report released last week by the DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 97 percent of kids’ meals at American chains such as Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday do not meet the group’s nutritional standards for four- to eight-year-olds. Nineteen fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s and Chipotle, did not offer a single children’s meal option that met nutritional standards.

“Most chains seem stuck in a time warp, serving up the same old meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda,” said the group’s nutrition policy director, Margo G. Wootan.

The report found that of the 41 restaurants that offered kids’ meals, 83 percent offered fried chicken entrées, 65 percent offered burgers, and 50 percent offered mostly macaroni and cheese. The number of calories per menu item ranged from 30 at P.F. Chang’s to 800 at Ruby Tuesday.

The following restaurants were among the worst offenders in the report:

1) The highest-calorie meal is Applebee’s grilled cheese on sourdough with fries. This meal topped out at 1,210 calories with 62 grams of fat and a whopping 2,340 milligrams of sodium.

2) Chili’s pepperoni pizza with homestyle fries and a soda contains 18 grams of saturated fat—that’s the maximum an adult should consume in one day, on top of 2,020 milligrams of sodium and 1,010 calories.

3) Dairy Queen’s chicken strips with fries, sauce, a frozen drink, and an ice cream bar comes to 1,030 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 1,730 milligrams of sodium.

The only bright spot in the report was Subway, which received a score of 100. It won points for being the only chain that does not offer sugary drinks for kids’ meals. Its child-friendly meals include low-fat milk or bottled water with apple slices as sides to its kids-size subs.

The full report is available at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website.