1 Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil; 2 Equilibrium, São Paulo, Brazil; 3 Faculdade de Saúde Pública da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.
Introduction: Recently, revised Dietary Guidelines in Brazil included a recommendation to avoid fast food. Meals away from home are increasingly common and there is little research from Brazil evaluating nutritional parameters of children’s meals in different eating locations, especially for children under age 10. Objectives: To compare the nutritional composition between: i) typical homemade Brazilian meal; ii) advertised chain fast food children’s lunch meals; iii) nutrition recommendations, covering the 4-10 year-old population. Methods: Nutritional information from fast food children’s meals were collected from company websites and product labels in August, 2014. Nutritional needs were calculated according to the Dietary Reference Intakes and the typical meal was estimated based on a Brazilian multicenter study. Total energy intake and requirements were converted to 35% proportional values applicable to the lunch meal. This proportion was applied to macronutrients, fiber, and micronutrients, including sodium, iron and calcium. Ranges for energy and macronutrients were calculated, based on varying energy needs by age and activity level. Results: The majority of all the children’s meals evaluated did not exceed the lunch range for dietary energy and macronutrients. However, 60% and 50% of these meals exceeded recommended saturated fat for 4-6 and 7-10 year-old children, respectively. All fast food and homemade meals exceeded sodium recommendations. With regard to iron and calcium, only one restaurant chain provided this information. Estimated homemade meal and the two fast food meals reported provided more iron than the estimated minimum and these meals were within the calcium range for younger children’s needs. Conclusions: The nutrition quality of lunch in fast food restaurants is similar to a typical Brazilian meal. Every meal evaluated could be improved with regard to sodium and fiber to promote children’s health in adulthood. These comparisons illustrate focus should be placed on nutritional quality rather than on eating place.