Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take
Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C., recently released a study saying 97% of kids’ meals at major restaurant chains it surveyed failed to meet governmental nutrition guidelines.

The same day, chicken chain KFC rolled out its Li’l Bucket, a revamped kids’ meal styled after the company’s iconic bucket packaging.

The default options in the Li’l Bucket, which KFC dubbed the “thinking mom’s kids’ meal,” are a grilled chicken drumstick, green beans, a Capri Sun Roarin’ Water drink pouch and a GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouch. That meal clocks in at 210 calories, considerably below the 430 calories the CSPI cites as the expert nutrition standard for kids’ meals.

So KFC’s move should have met with applause, or at least an “E for effort,” right?

Well, not so fast.

Coverage of the launch by major news outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times was fairly even-handed, pointing out the fast-food industry’s conundrum of balancing healthy options for children with foods kids like to eat. The Journal said the most commonly ordered KFC kids’ side items were macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, which are also options in the Li’l Bucket.

Regarding entree options, the Journal quotes KFC senior director of marketing Cynthia Koplos’ take on the grilled chicken leg: “My guess is it will probably not be the No. 1 choice.”

The other three entree options are breaded or fried, a fact that foodie website Eater jumped on with a vengeance.

“Of course, representatives from the company that brought such culinary innovations as the Double Down and the Cheesy Bacon Bowl are concerned about providing healthy meals for America’s youth,” snarks Eater writer Hillary Dixler.

“To that end, one of four chicken choices in the Li’l Bucket is not fried and one of the three options for sides is a non-starch.”

Then the mommy blogger universe exploded after KFC invited five moms to bring one of their kids each to the chain’s headquarters for a tour and introduction to the new kids’ meal.

Anti-KFC bloggers lambasted the moms who went as being sell-outs and accused the company of hiding behind moms and kids to promote their new meals as healthy.

Cher Kachelmuss of Mom and More, one of the bloggers invited, recapped the event: “The whole idea was that KFC has launched some healthier choices in their kids’ meals — not healthy but healthier than maybe what they had before or other fast food restaurants may have.”

Given that KFC’s kids’ meals formerly contained no vegetables or fruit and also included a reduced-fat string cheese stick, I agree with Kachelmuss.

Would I prefer KFC to offer fresh-cut apples instead of applesauce? Yes.

Would it be better if they served green beans free of MSG and lashings of salt? Sure.

If I were a parent, I would also pick the milk drink option for my child instead of the Roarin’ Water, which contains high fructose corn syrup and Splenda.

But some fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. KFC’s Li’l Bucket, though a small step, is one in the right direction.

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