Study: Kids' meals too high in calories

SACRAMENTO Almost all of them exceeded 430 calories, the recommended amount of calories per meal for kids aged 4 to 8.

"Our study shows that 93 percent of meal combinations at the nation's largest chains provide a calorie overdose. Despite the fact that these meals are marketed as appropriate for children," said Dr. Harold Goldstein, CA Center for Public Health Advocacy.

In some cases, the calorie count approached 1000. A kids meal combo at Kentucky Fried Chicken totaled 980 calories. And a McDonald's kids meal, which consisted of a hamburger, fries and chocolate milk, totaled to 840 calories.

Health experts say it's contributing to childhood obesity, which is now 28 percent in California. The restaurant industry says most eateries offer healthy choices.

"The focus that the study takes on just calories maybe misleading. An example is Diet Pepsi has zero calories, while lowfat milk has 130 calories. So you've got to ask yourself what is healthier for kids, particularly?" said Lara Diaz Dunbar from the California Restaurant Association.

The report points out five fast food chains that offered no kids' meals below the recommended 430 calories: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell.

The study found Subway offered the most meals within the recommended calorie count.

Health experts hope California takes New York City's lead, mandating calorie counts on menus. There's a bill currently pending in the California Assembly.

"The dietary intake, calories in, is probably fueling the epidemic, much more than reduced physical activity," said Dr. Paul Simon from the LA County Public Health Department.

Eating out now accounts for one-third of children's caloric intake. Some parents had no idea how what they were feeding their kids.

"This is ridiculous. Little kids? A thousand calories? Our meals are only 2000 a day and they're eating 1/2 of what adults are supposed to eat, that's ridiculous," said concerned mom, Michelle McMoore.

The New York City Health Department found that with the calories posted on the menus, people were likely to eat 53 calories less at that meal.


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