Children in the U.S. are eating fast food more often, and despite restaurant chains' commitments to offer healthier options with kids meals, most kids still get unhealthy drinks and side items with their meals, according to a recent CBS news report.
A new survey of 800 parents shows that in 2016, 91% reported purchasing lunch or dinner for their child in the past week at one of the four largest chains in the country: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Subway. That number was up from 79% in 2010.
The researchers from Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut suggest that one of the reasons families are visiting fast-food restaurants more frequently is the restaurants' claims that they've replaced sugary soft drinks and greasy french fries in kids meals with healthier options such as fruit and yogurt, 100% juice, low-fat milk and water.
However, according to the research, once families are actually in the restaurants, kids are still eating the less healthy options, with the healthier offerings not making much of a difference. However, supermarkets and, in particular, their grocerants could be the game changer.
Previous research from the UConn Rudd Center found that counter personnel at many fast-food restaurants automatically provide the less healthy sides and drinks when a kids meal is ordered, without offering the healthier items. It’s an opportunity for grocerants to be proactive and take the higher ground and learn from the mistakes made at fast-food counters.
Research has shown that eating highly processed foods like those served in fast-food restaurants has been linked to a number of negative health issues, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and early death.
A 2015 study from Tufts University looked at 51 countries around the world and found that consumption of sugary drinks may have led to approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from heart disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer in 2010 alone.
The UConn researchers argue that fast food places should make it easier for parents to make healthy choices for their kids. We argue that it is a unique opportunity for grocerants.