New York, Sep 1: A bill to improve the nutritional value of fast food restaurant meals marketed to children could have a wide enough impact on obesity, suggests a new study.
The "Healthy Happy Meals" Bill, proposed by New York City Council member Benjamin J. Kallos, would require that fast food meals marketed to kids using toys or other promotional items include a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grain.
They must also be limited to 500 calories or less, with fewer than 35 percent of calories coming from fat, fewer than 10 percent coming from saturated fat, fewer than 10 percent from added sugars, and fewer than 600 milligrams of sodium.
The bill is currently being considered by the City Council, and is similar to legislation recently enacted in California.
The researchers from NYU Langone Medical Centre analysed receipts collected in 2013 and 2014 from 358 adults.
These included purchases for 422 children at multiple locations of Burger King, McDonald's, and Wendy's - three fast food chains that market kids' meals.
Adults purchased on average 600 calories for each child, with 36 percent of those calories coming from fat, according to the findings.
Over one-third of children ordered kids' meals, and 98 percent of kids' meals did not meet the nutritional criteria outlined in the proposed legislation.
If kids' meals meet the bill's criteria and children's orders do not shift, there would be a nine percent drop in calories - representing 54 fewer calories - a 10 percent drop in sodium, and a 10 percent drop in percentage of calories from fat.
"While 54 calories at a given meal is a small reduction, small changes that affect a wide number of people can make a large impact," said lead author Brian Elbel.
The study was published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.