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The Worst Fast Food for Kids

Unhappy Kid's Meals


Earlier this month, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban fast food companies from offering meals with toys to kids, unless those dishes meet certain standards. The goal of this new policy is to limit the ability of fast food chains to market unhealthy meals to kids.  Whether or not you agree with this decision, one thing is clear: It will take much more than restricting toys to get kids to consume healthier fast food.

A recent study of more than 3,000 fast food kids’ meals found that just 12 dishes met the most basic nutritional requirements for preschoolers, and only 15 were considered healthy for older kids. The rest of the meals served either had too much salt, sugar or calories, or all of the above.

If that’s not bad enough, the study, which was conducted by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, found that fast food companies have marketed their products more heavily toward children in recent years. The average preschooler viewed 21% more fast food TV ads last year than in 2003, while the number of ads seen by older children increased by 34% over that time.

Even if you feel that children should be able to eat fast food meals, certain dishes are clearly much more unhealthy than others. The Rudd Center ranked the worst kids’ meal combinations offered by fast food companies based on nutritional factors like the total calories and sodium, as well as the amount of calories from saturated fats and sugars. Each of these combination meals includes a main dish, side dish, beverage and desert.

You may want to think twice before letting your kids eat one of the dishes on this list, and for the love of humanity, don’t let them get seconds.

Photo Credit: kellyhogaboom

Wendy's Chicken Nuggets With Ranch Dipping Sauce


It sounds kind of healthy at first. After all, chicken is protein, right? But it’s everything that comes with this four-piece chicken nugget combo meal that makes it so unhealthy: French fries and a vanilla frosty. When put together, you’ve got a pretty decadent dish.

Total calories: 720

Total sodium (mg): 860

Calories from saturated fats: 90

Calories from sugar: 92

Photo Credit: theimpulsivebuy

McDonald's Double Cheeseburger


Somehow our civilization has progressed to the point where a double cheeseburger no longer sounds terribly obscene, along the lines of tripledecker burgers and quadruple bypass burgers (yes, we made that up). But, for kids, a double cheeseburger is still pretty obscene. Plus, it comes with a soft drink and french fries. No wonder it has so much sodium and so many calories.

Total calories: 830

Total sodium (mg): 1,315

Calories from saturated fats: 113

Calories from sugar: 204

Photo Credit: jinglejammer

Burger King's Double Cheeseburger


Besides Subway, Burger King fared the best on this list, with several dishes ranking among the healthiest fast food combos. But that doesn’t mean everything at Burger King is healthy. This double cheeseburger combo with fries and a soft drink is a calorie king.

Total calories: 820

Total sodium (mg): 1,365

Calories from saturated fats: 140

Calories from sugar: 180

Photo Credit: VirtualEm

Dairy Queen's Cheeseburger


This one is a beast. Dairy Queen’s cheeseburger combination with french fries, a soda and a chocolate bar packs a wallop of calories and sugar. If you want to make it a little bit better, according to the study, you can sub out the burger with a hot dog, saving you about 150 calories, though that would still rank among the most unhealthy combos overall.

Total calories: 973

Total sodium (mg): 1,450

Calories from saturated fats: 171

Calories from sugar: 268

Photo Credit: Arin Mckeown

Dairy Queen's Grilled Cheese Sandwich


The moral of this story seems to be that if you’re looking for a place to fatten up your kid a little bit, Dairy Queen may be it. This grilled cheese combo comes with fries and, you guessed it, a chocolate bar. This is Dairy Queen after all.

Total calories: 893

Total sodium (mg): 1,550

Calories from saturated fats: 162

Calories from sugar: 240

Photo Credit: Norm Walker

Taco Bell's Cheese Roll-Up


It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that a dish which essentially just consists of three globs of cheese smooshed together wouldn’t exactly be that healthy. Add that to a soda and some cinnamon twists and you have one of the most sugary items on this list.

Total calories: 590

Total sodium: 790

Calories from saturated fats: 45

Calories from sugar: 276

Photo Credit: jencu

Sonic's Grilled Cheese


There really is no such thing as a healthy grilled cheese sandwich, but some are clearly worse than others. In this combo meal from Sonic, kids get a grilled cheese with tots and a cherry slush. However, according to the study, you can make the dish a little bit healthier by subbing out the tots and cherry slush with French fries and a green apple slush. Although that dish would also rank among the 10 worst on this list.

Total calories: 680

Total sodium (mg): 1,305

Calories from saturated fats: 86

Calories from sugar: 208

Photo Credit: sonicdrivein.com

KFC Popcorn Chicken


KFC’s popcorn chicken combo, which comes with a biscuit, soft drink and string cheese, has more sodium than any adult, let alone child, should consume, not to mention an excessive amount of calories and sugar. If you sub out the biscuit for potato wedges, the dish is a little bit healthier, but not that much.

Total calories: 840

Total sodium (mg): 1,610

Calories from saturated fats: 99

Calories from sugar: 240

Photo Credit: abbamouse

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