4 Unhealthiest Kids’ Meals in America

The unhealthiest kids’ meals in America are not just bad, they may even be worse than the worst adult meals!

In our house, we eat mostly home cooked meals. So when I do go out to a restaurant with my kids, I don’t usually obsess about what they order. They don’t always make particularly good choices, but they rarely get halfway through the gigantic portions that are served and eating out is the exception rather than the rule, so I don’t worry too much about it. However, when one single kids’ restaurant meal far exceeds what their daily calorie count should be, I do take notice. So when Dave Zinczenco, author of Eat This! Not That! released his picks for the unhealthiest kids’ meals in America, it caught my attention.

How much should kids be eating?

Before looking at the worst kids meals in America, it is important to have an understanding of how kids should be eating. Of course they should be eating a variety of foods from different food groups. But when it comes to the numbers, this is what kids should be eating (note: link provides vitamin and mineral amounts too).

  • 2 to 3 years: 1,000 to 1,400 calories, 33 to 54 g of total fat (max 12 to 16 g saturated fat).
  • 4 to 8 years: 1,400 to 1,600 calories, 39 to 62 g of total fat (max 16 to 18 g saturated fat).
  • 9 to 13 years: 1,600 to 2,200 calories, 62 to 85 g of total fat (max  18 to 24 g saturated fat).

What does the kids’ menu look like?

Keeping those numbers in mind, take a look at Dave Zincenco’s picks for the worst kids’ meals in America:

  • Cheesecake Factory’s Kids’ Pasta, which includes a big glob of alfredo sauce comes in at an astounding 1,810 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat. That is more than a 13-year-old child should be eating in the whole day, not just one meal. Add a drink, bread and dessert to this meal and it puts any child way over the edge nutrition-wise.
  • Border’s Kid’s Cheese Quesadilla with Mexican rice has 1,220 calories and 75 grams of fat. This one is particularly shocking because of how easy it is to make a similar, yet incredibly healthy meal at home.
  • McDonald’s Might Kids Meal with McDouble, fries and chocolate milk comes in at 790 calories and 33 grams of fat.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Popcorn Chicken Meal with potato wedges and a Pepsi reaches 730 calories and 32 grams of fat.

Zincenco didn’t list the sodium levels for those meals. However, based on similar studies, they are probably through the roof.

In 2009, Eat This, Not That did a more detailed review of the best and worst kids’ meals. Unfortunately, looking at these numbers, things appear to be getting worse, not better.

How does this compare to the worst adult meals?

In August, Shannon McKarney wrote about the unhealthiest restaurant meals in America. Most of the meals listed in that report ranged from about 1,250 to 1,750 calories and around 30 to 60 grams of saturated fat.  Readers were absolutely disgusted by the numbers given in that article and the bad news is that the kids’ menu really isn’t any better. Proportionately, in fact, it may be much worse because children are smaller and have lower caloric and fat intake requirements than adults do.

Should we demand better?

Going out to eat is a treat for kids and a break for parents. They should be able to enjoy that time, without having to worry too much about what is going into their kids’ bodies. Why do we allow restaurants to get away with feeding our families this way? Shouldn’t we, as voters and consumers, be demanding better? Or do we need to feel uncomfortably stuffed at the end of a meal in order to feel like we got our money’s worth? It would be interesting to see if there are restaurants out there that are serving decent kids meals that are not setting them up for a lifetime of health problems. Have you found any?

Related stories:

Unhealthiest Restaurant Meals in America

Is Severe Obesity In Kids A Sign Of Child Abuse?

Obesity Rising In Chinese Children (Who Eat Their Vegetables)

Photo from abbamouse via flickr


W. C
W. C11 months ago


William C
William C11 months ago

Thank you.

Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Anton K.
Past Member 5 years ago

Yikes! Thanks.

iii q.
g d c5 years ago


Susanne R.
Susanne R6 years ago

Those are some eye-opening numbers! Good to keep in mind when taking the grandkids out to eat. Thank you!

Jillian B.
Jillian B6 years ago

Wow this is stunning!

Alysia S.
Alysia S6 years ago

I think there should be a lot more healthy meals for children. Its hard to tell my daughter no happy meals she mainly wants the toy but it seems like that is how they bait parents into buying the meals and they are really unhealthy.

Mandi A.
Amanda A6 years ago

My children will be raised as Vegans until they are old enough to educate themselves on nutrition and what is and is not healthy, but even if I wasn't going to raise little Vegan babies, they wouldn't be eating that crap...gross...

Bob P.