It may seem like an oxymoron to attach ‘healthy’ and ‘fast food’ in the same sentence, but healthier Happy Meals are possible, and could provide a slight improvement in children’s diets across the United States. Obesity is still a well known issue and the numbers do not seem to see a drastic decrease throughout the years.
Measures need to be taken early, as unhealthy food habits can be instilled in young children and last through to their adulthood. That is why a new proposed policy in New York City aims to approve slight adjustments in content of regular fast food menu options that include toys.
Researchers gathered the data from well-known chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s in New York and New Jersey, of 358 adults purchasing fast food for 422 children of the average age of 7 years old.
The aim was to garner the calorie intake of children, along with content of fat, saturated fats, sugar and salt, that might be perilous to their health in bigger amount. According to the results, adults bought an average number of 600 calories for their children, containing 869 mg of sodium, and a third of the meal’s calorie content received in the form of fat.
The sodium content by itself is over 50% of the total recommended amount to be consumed per day, all in just one meal. It emphasized an issue of children’s salt intake, along with far exceeding the healthy limits of fat.
Around 35% of the children also opted for meals accompanied by toys, or more commonly known as the regular Happy Meal, but a worrying 98% of them did not meet the recommended guidelines for proper nutrition.
It highlighted a possible venue where a change could be made possible, as with just a few small adjustments, children could cut down on calorie intake by 9%, and on sodium and saturated fat by 10%.
It may not seem like the most drastic measure ever taken, but little step by step, it could pave the way to better eating habits, or at least, not-so-bad ones.
The new regulations have proposed that meals accompanied by toys to have 500 calories or less, 35% less calories from fat, 10% fewer calories from saturated fat and sugar, and less than 600 mg of sodium. Furthermore, each meal would have to come with a healthy option of a fruit, vegetable or whole grain.
According to Marie Bragg, senior author of the study from NYU Langone Medical Center, the approval of the policy might point us toward healthier behavior and better eating habits. It may not be much, but incremental changes could be the pillars upon which we build healthier diets for the nation’s children.
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