RAND Study Targets Caloric Content of Kids’ Menu Items
The RAND Corp. has published a study claiming that “most kids’ menu items offered by the nation’s top 200 restaurant chains exceed the calorie counts recommended by nutrition experts,” according to a December 5, 2016, press release. Relying on the recommendations of 15 child nutrition experts—including Public Health Institute Advisor Lynn Silver and Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity Director Marlene Schwartz—the study authors adopted the following benchmarks: (i) a maximum of 300 calories for the main dishes in children’s meals; (ii) 100 calories for a serving of fried potatoes; (iii) 150 calories for soups, appetizers and snacks; and (iv) 150 calories for vegetables and salads that included added sauces, with the entire meal not to exceed 600 calories.
The study singles out fried potatoes as the item “that most often exceeded the calorie guidelines.” As the authors conclude, “Given the high frequency of children dining away from home, right-sizing portions could have a substantial impact on reducing excess consumption. Restaurants should voluntarily adhere to recommended maximum serving sizes for children’s menu items, to provide foods in portions that will not exacerbate the recalcitrant childhood obesity epidemic. Whereas some parents might be able to take advantage of upcoming calorie labeling to not go beyond the recommended maximum of 600 calories per meal, others would find it easier if default portion sizes were already available and all bundled meals were 600 calories or less.”