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News Flash: Chain Restaurant Food Is Bad for You!

April 3, 2013

Chain restaurant-goers, take note: the Center for Science in the Public Interest just released a study on the lack of nutrition in kids’ meals at chain restaurants. A whopping 97% of these meals flunked Nutrition 101.


It’s not that the meals are vaguely “not good” for kids — a weak statement that justifies parents giving in to them. Actually, they are astoundingly, amazingly bad for kids, with almost as many calories in some meals as youngsters need in an entire day. They are also loaded with fat and salt, two real killers that, in excess, can lead to early deterioration of your children’s health. Read: heart disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes in their young adult years, instead of in old age (which would be bad enough).

Don’t fool yourself into thinking Applebee’s is a “healthier” alternative to McDonalds. It isn’t. Neither is Denny’s. They’re in the report, too:

Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2 Percent Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62 grams of total fat (46 percent of calories), 21 grams of saturated fat (16 percent), and 2,340 milligrams of sodium. That meal has nearly three times as many calories, and three times as much sodium, as CSPI’s criteria for four-to eight-year-olds allow.

And here’s another news flash for parents — your entrees don’t fare any better, and they are bad for you, too. For example, although some of Applebee’s meals are Weight Watchers-approved for caloric and fat content, the sodium numbers are through the roof — the Grilled Jalapeno Shrimp, for example, weighs in with 2,110 mg of sodium, which is just 190 shy of your sodium recommendation for the day if you are under 50, and 610 mg over your limit if you’re 50+ or already have hypertension.

Set a healthy example for your kids and eat at home, with very occasional trips to restaurants as a treat. The grilled cheese or chicken nuggets you make at home, controlling the ingredients and cooking methods, are going to taste better and be nutritionally superior to anything you can get at a chain.

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