Out of 3,039 possible kids' meal combinations, only 12 meet the researchers' nutrition criteria for preschoolers. Only 15 meet nutrition criteria for older children.
Teens ages 13-17 purchase 800-1,100 calories in an average fast food meal, roughly half of their recommended total daily calories.
At least 30% of the calories in menu items purchased by children and teens are from sugar and saturated fat.
At most fast food restaurants, a single meal contains at least half of young people's daily recommended sodium.
Most fast food restaurants have at least one healthy side dish and beverage option for a kids' meal, but the healthy options are rarely offered as the default.
Even though McDonald's and Burger King show only healthy sides and beverages in child-targeted advertising, the restaurants automatically serve french fries with kids' meals at least 86% of the time, and soft drinks at least 55% of the time.
Companies facing increasing pressure about portion sizes are renaming, rather than eliminating, their biggest sides and drinks.
At Burger King, a 42-ounce "King" drink is now "large"; a 32-ounce "large" is now a "medium"; a 21-ounce "medium" is now a "small"; and a 16-ounce "small" is now "value."
Forty percent of children ages 2-11 ask their parents to go to McDonald's at least once a week, and 15% of preschoolers ask to go every day. 84% of parents report taking their child ages 2-11 to a fast food restaurant at least once in the past week.
The average preschooler sees almost three ads per day for fast food; children ages 6-11 see three-and-a-half ads; and teens ages 12-17 see almost five ads per day.
Children's food choices are affected by secondhand exposure to ads for foods and beverages targeted to adults.
More than 60% of fast food ads viewed by children were for foods other than kids' meals.
Older children (ages 6-11) are more likely to order an item from the dollar menu or a combo meal (27%) than to order a kids' meal (21%).
Compared with 2007, in 2009 preschoolers saw 21% more ads for McDonald's, 9% more for Burger King, and 56% more for Subway. Children (ages 6-11) saw 26% more ads for McDonald's, 10% more for Burger King, and 59% more for Subway.
Fast food advertising targeting preschoolers focuses on building brand loyalty rather than promoting specific food items.
McDonalds' 13 websites get 365,000 unique child visitors ages 2-11 and 294,000 unique teen visitors ages 12-17 each month. Targeted marketing for fast food starts as young as age 2 through websites such as McDonalds' Ronald.com.
Hispanic preschoolers see 290 Spanish-language fast food TV ads each year. McDonald's is responsible for one-quarter of young people's exposure to Spanish-language fast food advertising.
African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers. McDonald's and KFC, in particular, specifically target African American youth with TV advertising, targeted websites, and banner ads.
African American children see nearly twice as many calories as white children see in fast food TV ads every day.