Most of us think that fast-food meals for kids are much more likely to be unhealthful than healthful, and now there’s research to support that opinion. LA Times is reporting on a study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that analyzed every possible combination of kids’ meals at 18 fast-food restaurants to find out how many of them were healthful. The results are found in the Fast Food f.a.c.t.s. report.

Researchers found 5,427 possible meal combinations and out of those they determined that only 33 were healthful. That’s less than 1 percent. What did researchers consider healthful? The meal had to meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommended nutrition guidelines.

I think the most interesting finding in the study was that when the researchers held the kids’ meals up against the healthy food standards that the National Restaurant Association has set for meals that are aimed at kids, only 3 percent of the meals met the standards. The fast-food restaurants are rarely meeting the standards that have been created by the industry.

Simply switching out apples for French fries or 100-percent juice for soda does not make a fast-food kids’ meal healthy. Other factors like the calories, fat, salt and sugar in the burgers and chicken nuggets often found in these meals or the dipping sauces for veggies or fruits tip the balance from healthful to unhealthful.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is obvious. And, I think it is, too; yet the study found that one-third of children and 41 percent of teenagers eat fast food every day. If it’s obvious to everyone, then there are some parents who aren’t very concerned about what their kids are eating.

I’m sure there are some parents who don’t care, but I can’t believe that up to 40 percent of the parents just don’t care. I think they see apple slices and low-fat chocolate milk and think “healthy.” I’m not sure how to solve that problem except to keep writing about it and letting people know about studies like this.

What was the best fast-food kids’ meal the researchers found? It was the Arby’s meal that contained Kraft macaroni and cheese, apple slices and bottled water. The Fast Food f.a.c.t.s best and worst kids’ fast-food combinations is eye opening. A smoked ham sandwich on white bread, yogurt and organic chocolate milk from Panera certainly seems like a healthier option than a soft taco, cinnamon twists and a Mountain Dew from Taco Bell, but according to the study, the Taco Bell meal is better nutritionally.

What do you think needs to be done to get adults to truly understand that fast food with “healthier” options is still unhealthful?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Less than 1 percent of kids' fast-food meals are healthy, says new study
You can find healthy fast-food kids’ meal, but the odds are higher that you'll find only unhealthy options.