07.20.10

The 25 Worst Meals for Kids

Michelle Obama has teamed up with baseball stars to tackle childhood obesity. A good start: restaurants. The Daily Beast ranks the 25 most dangerous kids meals from national chains.

Michelle Obama yesterday brought in some additional star power— 10 top baseball players—to launch a partnership with Major League Baseball as part of her “ Let's Move” crusade against childhood obesity. She needs all the help she can get: obesity among children has increased threefold over the past 30 years, to 19.6% in 2008, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Using a broader measure, nearly a third of America’s children are obese or overweight, though the numbers have recently flattened.

From a 2,300-calorie binge at Friendly’s to Houlihan’s 1,300-calories chicken finger meal, VIEW OUR GALLERY of the unhealthiest kids food.

“Our bodies got us through famines and droughts in the past, so what you’ve seen in the past 30 years is you’ve seen our environment change,” says Dr. Joseph A. Skelton, director of the Brenner FIT Program in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The problem is double urgent since obese children often stay that way for life—about 25% of obese adults were overweight when they were kids. The nation’s ongoing caloric battle is attributed to genetics, a child’s home environment, and diet. When faced with a mouthwatering cheeseburger or fried chicken strips, kids have as hard a time saying no as adults. The best way for children to start learn to love healthy foods may come from a simple conversation with family.

“Parents tend to nag their kids to be healthier and it sets up a very negative relationship between parents and the child,” Skelton says. “Instead of it being a negative relationship turn it into a positive one.”

The Daily Beast examined the data for kids meals from dozens of national chain restaurants across the four categories available for each eatery: calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates. Each meal was ranked within each nutritional category, then the ranking each meal received for each nutritional category was totaled to determine the final ranking. Ties were broken by saturated fat content.

The meals here have at least 800 calories, making up roughly half of an average 10-year-old’s recommended daily intake. Stalwarts like McDonald’s and Burger King don’t make the cut, but the most fattening meal, a concoction from Friendly’s which includes a dessert and drink, tips the scales at more than 2,000 calories. Many restaurants don’t have an explicit kids menu, and for those that do, not all kids meals are created equal—some meals include sides and soda, while others come with just an entrée. But if it’s offered in the meal, kids are inclined to order it. Click the gallery above to find out which meals are most likely to have the highest health risks for kids.

Research and reporting by Clark Merrefield

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