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Health note: Most kids’ meals still far from healthful

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Most kids’ meals still
far from healthful

Even though children’s nutrition has received lots of attention the past few years, you’re still more likely to find chicken fingers and fries on kids’ menus than wraps and salads.

Ninety-seven percent of major restaurant-chain children’s meals were deemed unhealthful in a recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer-advocacy group.

“I think what most restaurants have done is just add one or two meals that meet nutrition standards and left the rest of the menu very unhealthy,” said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Washington-based organization. “They’re still serving up the same old junk they always have.”

With Americans spending nearly half of their food budgets on eating out, restaurants have been under increasing pressure from government and health advocates to make meals more healthful, especially for youngsters. Restaurants say they are making steady progress.

But kids are growing out of these meals earlier, and many parents aren’t exactly clamoring for fewer calories, less salt and more vegetables. And that’s why many restaurants are making token changes rather than substantial ones, some experts say.

“There’s always been this mentality that people don’t go out to eat healthy,” said Julie Casey, an Orlando consultant who helps restaurants make themselves more child-friendly.

“(Restaurants) make more money selling junk food,” said Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition and public-health professor and author of “What to Eat,” in an email. “Until that problem is addressed, I don’t see things changing.”

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