Objective To determine changes in the nutritional content of children’s menu items at U.S. restaurant chains between 2010 and 2014. Methods The sample consisted of 13 sit down and 16 fast-food restaurant chains ranked within the top 50 US chains in 2009. Nutritional information was accessed in June-July 2010 and 2014. Descriptive statistics were calculated for nutrient content of main dishes and side dishes, as well as for those items that were added, removed, or unchanged during the study period. Results Nutrient content of main dishes did not change significantly between 2010 and 2014. Approximately one-third of main dishes at fast-food restaurant chains and half of main dishes at sit down restaurant chains exceeded the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended levels for sodium, fat, and saturated fat in 2014. Improvements in nutrient content were observed for side dishes. At sit down restaurant chains, added side dishes contained over 50 % less calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and were more likely to contain fruits/vegetables compared to removed sides (p < 0.05 for all comparisons). Added side dishes at fast-food restaurant chains contained less saturated fat (p < 0.05). Conclusions The majority of menu items, especially main dishes, available to children still contain high amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium. Efforts must be made by the restaurant industry and policy makers to improve the nutritional content of children’s menu items at restaurant chains to align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Additional efforts are necessary to help parents and children make informed choices when ordering at restaurant chains.
Deierlein, A. L., Peat, K. & Claudio, L. (2015). Comparison of the nutrient content of children’s menu items at US restaurant chains, 2010–2014. Nutrition Journal, 14, 80. doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0066-4.