Kids' food makers go leaner in light of obesity epidemic

May 26, 2004 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends

Kids' food makers go leaner in light of obesity epidemic

Some of the biggest U.S. food and restaurant companies are changing the way they make kids' favorite foods as they face increased scrutiny in light of a nationwide childhood obesity epidemic.

In recent months, North Americans' growing health-consciousness has pressured major food makers like Kraft Foods Inc. and restaurant chains like McDonald's to reformulate the fat, calorie and carbohydrate contents of foods, such as cookies and French fries.

Companies are also taking action to slim down the nutritional content of products made specifically for kids. Casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday Inc. next month will launch a new children's menu that includes grilled chicken and roast turkey entrees with side dishes of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

The new meals have less fat and fewer calories than the burgers, fried chicken strips and French fries often found on kids' menus. Parents who feed their kids healthy foods at home now know they can eat healthier at this restaurant.  Ruby Tuesday's move comes as several major food makers are announcing plans to offer healthier versions of their most popular kids' foods.

General Mills said last week it will introduce reduced-sugar versions of the popular kids' cereals Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs next month. Rival Kellogg Co. launched reduced-sugar versions of kids' cereals like Frosted Flakes earlier this year.

Other companies are making changes in response to moves by some of the largest U.S. public school systems to ban soft drinks, candy and fat-laden snacks from vending machines and cafeterias.

Frozen French fry maker J.R. Simplot Co., for instance, said last week it developed a new line of fries made specifically for school lunches. The reformulated fries, which schools in San Diego and Alabama plan to use, are baked rather than fried and do not contain artery-clogging trans-fats.

Let's hope Canadian restaurants follow suit and de-fat their kids' menus!

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