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Fast Food Facts 2013 shows mixed results

Posted on Jan 03, 2014 by Maggie LaBarbera
The Fast Food Facts 2013 has been issued by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.  The report examined the nutritional quality of fast food menus, advertising on TV and the internet, and marketing practices inside restaurants over the last 3 years since the last report issued back in 2010.
Here are the key findings*:

Kids Food Options:

  • Kids’ meal options have improved since 2010. 
  • Most restaurants offer more healthy sides and beverages and some also offer healthy main dishes for their kids’ meals.
  • Restaurants also added a few new healthy options to their regular  menus.
  • Nearly all items on fast food menus – including kids’ meal items – exceed recommended levels of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and/or sugar for children and teens.
  • Every day, 33% of children eat fast food

Marketing To Kids:

  • In 2012, fast food restaurants spent $4.6 billion in total on all advertising, an 8% increase over 2009. 
  • Fast food restaurants spent 12.4 times as much to advertise their products compared to food advertisers for four healthy food categories combined. 
  • The biggest advertiser, McDonald’s, spent 2.7 times as much to advertise its products ($972 million) as all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined ($367 million).
  • Fast food marketing via mobile devices and social media popular with teens has grown exponentially
  • Popular child-targeted websites from McDonalds, Burger King and Dairy Queen were discontinued
  • On average, U.S. preschoolers viewed 2.8 fast food ads on TV every day in 2012, children (6-11 years) viewed 3.2 ads per day, and teens viewed 4.8 ads per day. 
  • Six companies were responsible for more than 70% of all TV ads viewed by children and teens: 
    • McDonald’s
    • Subway
    • Burger King
    • Domino’s
    • Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC)
    • Wendy’s

Conclusion of the  Report:

Over the last three years, there have been some improvements. However, the pace is slow and unlikely to reduce young people’s over consumption of high-calorie, nutritionally poor fast food.


  • Fast food restaurants should do more to improve the nutritional quality of kids’ meals and regular menu items.
  • Fast food restaurants should stop marketing directly to children and teens to encourage consumption of unhealthy fast food.

What can you do as a parent:

  • The best thing you can do is limit screen time to 2 hours or less a day.  This way you are also limiting food advertisements that your child will be exposed to.
  • Choose websites for your children that do not advertise to children.  Nourish Interactive has a strict policy that there are ZERO advertisements in the kids section, Solusville.
  • Finally, teach your children about advertisement and marketing.  Help them understand that company's main objective is to get them to buy their food or product.  Explain that advertising is part of business but does not necessarily mean that you need that food or product.
  • Help children learn to read food labels as part of their decision process on what foods to choose.
  • Be a great role model for healthy foods
  • Be your own healthy food advertiser/marketeer at home by showing kids how much fun and tasty healthy foods really are.




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