Start Date: March 2016

ID #: CAS034

Organization: University of Connecticut

Project Lead: Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA

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This project will determine whether restaurants have implemented healthier kids’ meal default policies and whether healthy defaults successfully reduce calories and improve the overall nutritional quality of fast-food meals consumed by children. The team will conduct two studies to update research conducted in 2010 and 2013 and measure change over time. In the first study, a market research firm will conduct audits of the sides and beverages offered with kids’ meals in four fast-food restaurant chains (100 sites each) with healthy kids’ meal default policies—McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, and Wendy’s. They will supplement these analyses with examinations of Dairy Queen, KFC, and Panera Bread, which recently started offering healthier sides and/or beverages with their kids’ meals. In the second study, the research team will conduct an online survey of 750 parents of children ages 2 to11 to obtain information about recent visits to fast-food restaurants with their child, including menu items ordered in the last week, and measure changes from 2013. Parents’ attitudes about healthy defaults and the restaurants offering them will also be measured. The team will augment the sample to include at least 100 black and 100 Hispanic parents, and at least 50 parents each who visited Dairy Queen, KFC, and Panera Bread. The team will produce a brief that reviews literature on healthy fast food defaults, presents findings from the two studies, and discusses implications for healthy kids’ meal default policies.

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