Two-thirds of young children’s meals in restaurants exceed fat guidelines

Average meal for kids aged two to five years contained 609 kcals, study finds

Two-thirds of the meals served to young children in restaurants in Ireland and the UK contain more fat and saturated fat than health guidelines recommend, new research suggests. Image: iStock.

Two-thirds of the meals served to young children in restaurants in Ireland and the UK contain more fat and saturated fat than health guidelines recommend, new research suggests. Image: iStock.

 

Two-thirds of the meals served to young children in restaurants in Ireland and the UK contain more fat and saturated fat than health guidelines recommend, new research suggests.

A study by researchers at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and the University of Roehampton (UK) looked at children’s menus from 20 popular chain restaurants and analysed more than 39,000 meal combinations.

The average meal for younger children (aged two to five years) contained 609 kcals, and for older children (six to 12 years) 653 kcals while the guidelines recommend an intakes of 364 and 550 kcals respectively for the age groups.

It found in 68 per cent of cases meals for the younger group exceeded the fat guidelines and 53 per cent for the older group. The meals included more than four times the recommended amount of saturated fat.

Dr Tara Coppinger, of the department of sport, leisure and childhood studies at CIT, said the findings were worrying given the trend of families opting to eat out more regularly.

“While the sugar sweetened drinks tax that came into effect in 2018 was a positive step to help improve the quality of food and drink on offer, this study proves that there is still a lot of work to be done in many of the country’s most popular restaurants.”

Meal deals were less likely to meet dietary guidelines than main meals alone, the study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour found.