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Monday
Nov082010

Study: Are Fast Food Restaurants Really Promoting Healthy Options?

Photo Courtesy - Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- How well is the effort to improve fast food and offer more healthful alternatives to kids really working? A new study by Yale University researchers is raising that question.

They say that while healthy options for kids are available, restaurant servers rarely mention them to parents.

Yale calls this new study the most comprehensive look yet at the nutritional content and marketing of fast food to kids.

The results are jarring.

Some key findings include restaurants don't guide people to healthier choices, children's exposure to fast food ads is increasing and companies actively target African American and Latino youth.

Of the more than 3,000 possible combinations of children's meals at eight different fast food restaurants, only 12 met nutrition criteria set by Yale for preschoolers and only 15 for older children.

"It's possible to get a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant but it's very difficult. You have to go in, you have to know exactly what you're looking for and you have to take the initiative to ask for it," said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Researchers sent people into 250 fast food restaurants across the country and found that when customers asked for kids meals, servers offered them the choice of healthy sides like apples only six-eight percent of the time at McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's.

Healthy drink alternatives like milk were offered by servers just 26-28 percent of the time at McDonald's and Burger King.

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