Burger King, IHOP, Chili's, and some 15,000 other restaurants have joined forces to offer more nutritional options on its menus. The measure is in part directed at fighting childhood obesity by offering more healthy options on menus, but the main question is will it make a difference?
In doing its part, Burger King announced it will not automatically include French fries and soda as part of its kid's menu. Instead it will allow for the parent and/or child to decide whether they'd want the traditional options, or if they would prefer a healthier option.
While in theory it seems like a nice gesture, will this really have any extra impact besides forcing customers to waste an extra breath in specifying they want French fries?
I do think that parents will take advantage of this new menu, nutritionist Amy Shapiro of RealNutritionNYC said. Although it will be hard to get children to start wanting to eat the healthier options who are used to eating fries and drinking soda, younger kids and kids in the future can learn from these changes.
The program called Kids LiveWell, was announced on Wednesday by the National Restaurants Association. In order to participate in the voluntary program, restaurants must: offer a children's menu with 600 calories or less, offer at least one option of 200 calories or less, and display the healthy meal options.
What could be crucial to success is whether restaurants do the bare minimum requirements of the program or if they truly embrace the issue.
The big issue is, will they be promoting the healthy guidelines, or will it just be one item on the menu and kids will still go to the fries, ABC News chief health editor Dr. Richard Besser said.
Childhood obesity a BIG issue in United States
The childhood obesity issue has emerged as one of the primary concerns in the United States. Michelle Obama made it her main focus as First Lady and on Tuesday a journal piece suggested taking extremely obese children away from their parents.
According to recent numbers, 12.5 million children suffer from obesity and two million of severe obesity. That 12.5 million represents approximately 17 percent of all children in the United States. When you see those kinds of numbers, it at least somewhat justifies why Mrs. Obama and others have made such a big deal out of this issue.
But in combatting childhood obesity, a lot of the onus has to fall on the parents. Burger King and other restaurants offering healthy choices isn't a bad thing, but in order for it to be effective parents have to make sure their children actually go for the healthy alternative.
Will parents be able to stand up to their children and tell them they have to go for the healthy option and not the French fry filled one they desire? The numbers suggest they haven't been successful and Shapiro admits that many parents are likely to take the easy way out.
One other crucial detail is how these companies, particularly Burger King, market the healthy options. Commercials generally tend towards showcasing juicy burgers, delicious French fries, and every other option that tastes great but isn't good for your body.
Will Burger King and other restaurants actually go out of their way to start marketing their healthy options? That answer remains to be seen but it could go a long way to making an impact.
I do hope that these chains start advertising the new menus, because a main reason why people do not make the healthier choices is because they do not know these options are even available, Shapiro said. Individuals go into these restaurants already familiar with the menus therefore they do not even look at the menu boards, they go in knowing what they want and order out of habit.