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Food industry pledge for healthy meals falls flat

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Children's menus no healthier, despite restaurant industry pledge in 2011

A Harvard study shows children's menus are still laden with salt, calories and fat, despite a 2011 pledge from national restaurant chains to serve up better nutrition.


Perhaps you remember the Kids LiveWell pledge that was launched by the National Restaurant Association in 2011 that now appears like more rhetoric than action.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.looked at 45 restaurant chains.

The found eighty percent of drinks now offered by the chains have just as much sugar as sodas. They also noted children are being offered less healthier choices of food than promised.

The Harvard team also notes the KidsLiveWell pledge was voluntary, with over 40,000 restaurant chains vowing to help children cut calories and get more nutritious meals when eating outside of the home.

According to the report, other restaurant chains also stepped up to the plates' of children:

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The reviewers write:

"McDonald’s replaced French fries and soda in Happy Meals with fruit and lowfat milk Between 2013 and 2015, large national chains,including Applebee’s, Subway, Chipotle, Arby’s, Panera Bread, Wendy’s, and Burger King announced they would remove soda as the default choice on children’s menus."

Conclusion: Kid meals aren't any healthier, despite promises

The investigators, after looking at a variety of nutritional factors on childtren's menus including flavored milk, drink choices, calorie count, fat content, salt-laden foods, condlued children's meals aren't any healthier in chain restaurants than they were before the food chains made took the pledge.

See: Childhood obesity epidemic

Key findings include:

  • Fewer sodas on the menu; replaced mostly by flavored milk that nearly doubled from 2012 to 201
  • Sugar sweetened beverage dominate the menus now, as they did in the past
  • Calories on the menus dropped for a time, but did not persist.
  • Between 2012 and 2015 there were no changes in salt or saturated fat.
  • Side dishes became more calorie laden

The new report shows children's menus have improved some, but there is still more that can be done to get junk food, including sugary drinks, too much salt and excess calories off the menu.