The nutritional content of kids' meals served by American fast-food chains is generally poor, and such unhealthy food is pushed hard by marketers, according to the results of a study released this week by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
The twelve largest fast food chains in the country spent a combined $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, with heavy focus on media popular with children, such as social websites and TV.
"Despite pledges to improve their marketing practices, fast food companies seem to be stepping up their efforts to target kids," said Rudd Center director of marketing initiatives and lead study author Jennifer Harris.
Just 15 out of 3,309 possible combinations of sides, drinks, and main courses in fast food meals met the researchers' nutritional guidelines for children beyond pre-school age, the study found. Also, the average fast food meal purchased by a 13- to 17-year old American in 2009 contained between 800 and 1,100 calories, which is about half of the total recommended daily allowance.