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Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Nov;88(5):1388-95.

Nutrient quality of fast food kids meals.

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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.



Exposure of children to kids meals at fast food restaurants is high; however, the nutrient quality of such meals has not been systematically assessed.


We assessed the nutrient quality of fast food meals marketed to young children, ie, "kids meals."


The nutrient quality of kids meals was assessed primarily by using criteria from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Analysis compared the nutrient values of meals offered by major fast food companies with restaurants in Houston, TX, with complete publicly available data. Data described every combination of meals offered in the target market. For each meal combination, the following were analyzed: total energy, percentage of energy from fat, total fat, saturated fat, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, added sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, energy density (food only), and the number of NSLP nutrient criteria met.


Three percent of kids meals met all NSLP criteria. Those that met all criteria offered a side of fruit plus milk. Most were deli-sandwich-based meals. Meals that met the criteria had about one-third the fat, one-sixth the added sugars, twice the iron, and 3 times the amount of vitamin A and calcium as did kids meals that did not meet the criteria (P <or= 0.001). Meals that did not meet the NSLP criteria were more than 1.5 times more energy dense than those that did meet the criteria (P < 0.001).


Kids meals that met the NSLP criteria are uncommon and are lower in energy density. These meals may contribute to the nutritional status of children.

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