mcdonald's

Fast food restaurant chain advertisements are targeting children as young as age 2 finds a recent study, and the children are not being encouraged to eat healthy foods.

The study found that at least 40 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 ask their parents to take them to McDonald’s weekly, and a startling 15 percent ask to go daily, according to CBS News, “In what is billed as the most comprehensive study of fast food nutrition and marketing ever conducted on the nation’s 12 largest fast food chains.”

The study researchers looked at the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in more than 3,000 kids’ meal combinations and 2,781 menu items, says CBS. “They also looked at how the $4.2 billion spent on advertising by these companies in 2009.”

Conducted by The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the study was released last month. “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,” reports CBS.

While many of the restaurants advertise having options for kids, the study found that most of the restaurants don’t offer the healthy dishes or beverages as the default. “For example, 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 percent of the time, and soft drinks at least 55 percent of the time,” CBS noted.

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Image: Danila Bedyaev