MONDAY, Aug. 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A New York City bill to improve the nutrition of children's fast food meals could reduce the average calories and improve the nutrition of these meals, a new study claims.
The bill proposed by New York City Council member Benjamin Kallos would require fast food meals marketed to children using toys or other promotional items to include a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grains.
The meals would have a maximum of 500 calories. They would also have to contain less than: 35 percent of calories from fat; 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; 10 percent of calories from added sugars, and 600 milligrams of salt.
To determine the potential impact of the proposal -- similar to one recently enacted in California -- researchers reviewed more than 400 receipts for meals that adults bought for children at McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's locations in New York City and New Jersey in 2013 and 2014.
On average, those meals had 600 calories, with 36 percent coming from fat. One-third of the orders were for children's meals and 98 percent of the children's meals didn't meet the nutritional standards in the proposed legislation.
If children's meals met those standards and the same percentage of those meals were ordered, calorie consumption would fall 9 percent (54 calories per meal), and there would be a 10 percent drop in sodium and a 10 percent decrease in percentage of calories from fat, the study found.
The study was published online Aug. 31 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"While 54 calories at a given meal is a small reduction, small changes that affect a wide number of people can make a large impact," said study author Brian Elbel, an associate professor of population health at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"Passing the bill could be a step in the right direction, though no single policy can singlehandedly eliminate childhood obesity," he said in a center news release.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about child nutrition.