Small changes to kids' fast food meals can help cut calorie consumption

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 20, 2013 08:00 hrs

Researchers have revealed that small changes to common combo meals in places like McDonald's restaurants can help reduce kids' calorie consumption.

Researchers at Cornell University, Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Andrew Hanks, analyzed transaction data from 30 representative McDonald's restaurants anf found that prior to 2012, the Happy Meal was served with one of three entree options (chicken nuggets, cheeseburger, hamburger), a side item (apples or small size French fry), and a beverage (fountain beverage, white milk, chocolate milk, apple juice).

But, by April 2012, all restaurants in this chain served a smaller size "kid fry" and a packet of apples with each CMB.

Wansink and Hanks found that this change in default side offerings resulted 98 of the 104-calorie decrease in the CMB.

With such a large decrease in calories, would children compensate by choosing a more calorie dense entree or beverage? Wansink and Hanks found that 99 percent of children ordered the same entree, and orders of chicken nuggets (the lowest calorie entree) remained flat at nearly 62 percent of all orders.

Yet, nearly 11 percent fewer children took caloric soda as a beverage and 22 percent more chose white or chocolate milk-a more satiating beverage.

This increase was partially due to small changes in advertising for milk.

Small changes in the automatic- or default- foods offered or promoted in children's meals can reduce calorie intake and improve the overall nutrition from selected foods as long as there is still an indulgence.

Importantly, balancing a meal with smaller portions of favored foods might avoid reactance and overeating. Just as managers have done this in restaurants, parents can do this at home.

The study is published in journal Obesity. (ANI)

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