Opinion Brief

Healthier fast food: Will kids actually eat it?

Burger King and 18 other restaurant chains are offering lower-calorie children's meals, but skeptics suspect kids will still want fries with that

On Wednesday, the National Restaurant Association launched its "Kids Live Well" campaign. That means Burger King, Chili's, El Pollo Loco, and 16 other restaurant chains across the country will add healthy, 600-calorie-or-less kids meals with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and limited sugar and fat to their menus. The healthier options will be available at 15,000 outlets nationwide. Will they actually gets kids to eat better and battle the bulge, or is this just a pointless PR stunt?

It would be surprising if this worked: "While in theory it seems like a nice gesture, will this really have any extra impact besides forcing customers to waste an extra breath in specifying they want French fries?" asks John Talty in the International Business Times. Offering these healthier items is one thing, but getting kids to eat them is another. The success of the program will greatly depend on how well the restaurants market their healthy options, and ultimately, the responsibility for what young kids eat rests with parents."Fast food sells healthy options, but should we buy it?"

This really will help fight childhood obesity: "Restaurants can be part of the solution to ensuring a healthier generation and providing consumer choice in dining options," says Dawn Sweeney, the head of the National Restaurant Association, which developed the Kids Live Well program, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. Yes, "this is really a huge first step for the restaurant industry in creating and offering and promoting healthier options," says Anita Jones-Mueller, a nutritionist who helped develop the program, as quoted in the same article."Restaurants to offer more-healthful fare for kids"

C'mon, this is not the answer: I commend these restaurants for the effort, but honestly, "why would anyone depend on a fast food chain for seriously nutritional options?" asks Meredith Carroll at Babble. I bet the supposedly healthy menus will simply offer up canned fruit that's barely better for kids than the fries. It's up to parents, not restaurants, to provide healthier options. Instead of taking the kids to Burger King, parents should spend their money on healthy foods at the grocery store, and cook nutritional meals at home. "19 fast food restaurants pledge healthier kids’ menus, but who turns to them for health food?"

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