Three percent of restaurants’ meals met CSPI’s standards. Fewer than one out of 10 met the KidsLive Well Standards.
McDonald’s has cut the size of its french fries and now includes apples in all Happy Meals. Still, the report called out the fast-food giant, saying it was one of several chains having no meals that met even the restaurant industry’s nutritional criteria.
Orlando-based Darden Restaurants’ Olive Garden was in the middle of the pack, though the report noted it offers more-healthful whole-grain pasta. One percent of its meals met CSPI’s standards, and 11 percent met those of Kids LiveWell.
Darden’s Red Lobster was one of the highest-ranking, with only Subway and IHOP having a greater percentage of meals that got a CSPI thumbs-up. All of Subway’s meals met the CSPI standards. At IHOP it was 31 percent and at Red Lobster, 28 percent.
Nutritionists who work closely with the restaurant industry acknowledge changes may seem slow. But it takes time to test products, find sources of healthy foods at an affordable cost and even consider things such as the choking hazards of grapes, said Orlando dietitian Jo Lichten, who has worked with chains including Wendy’s and Starbucks.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” she said. “It is a lot slower than some of the health experts perhaps want.”
It’s slower than Cindy Waddell would like, too. The Orlando nurse practitioner tries steering her young sons toward healthful choices when they go out to eat but says it’s not easy.
“They’re mostly the same: burgers, hot dogs,” she said. “I think it’s tough on the restaurants to please as many kids as possible.”