Children who eat fast food are more likely to become obese?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
When it comes to the childhood obesity, fast food consumption represents only a small part of the problem, compared to the rest of a child’s diet.
WHAT WE KNOW
In the last 20 years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled in the U.S. Today, more than 1 in 3 children and adolescents is overweight or obese. To combat this national health crisis, it is important to identify and understand what is driving this high rate of obesity in young people.
A study released in October 2013 suggests that, while a factor, fast food consumption is not the primary contributing reason for childhood obesity. Instead, this report suggests that there is stronger association between overall poor nutrition and obesity than with fast food consumption.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied the dietary intake of 4,466 children between the ages of 2 and 18. Looking at data from 2007-2010, they found:
- 50% of children in the U. S. were non-consumers of fast food.
- 40% of children were low consumers (less than or equal to 30 % of the calories came from fast food).
- 10% were high consumers (more than 30% of calories came from fast food).
While many people believe the rise in fast food consumption is the major cause for the rapid increase in childhood obesity, UNC researchers concluded:
- When it comes to obesity in children, fast food consumption is simply a byproduct of a larger problem (i.e. poor, all-day-long dietary habits that start in the home at an early age).
- This poor diet, often referred to as the Western diet, includes few fruits and vegetables and large amounts of salty snacks, high-fat sandwiches, candy, fries and sugar-sweetened beverages.
- While fast food consumption should not be overlooked, the remainder of a child’s diet is more strongly linked to poor nutrition and the risk for obesity.*
Because eating habits develop at a young age, it’s important to teach and model good nutrition, starting at home. Children should eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fewer high-fat, salty, sugary foods.
Better eating habits will provide your kids with the proper nutrition their growing bodies need today, and assist them in weight management throughout their lives.
Here’s how to help your child develop good eating habits …
- Be a Model. Encourage a healthy lifestyle by modeling good eating habits at home. Eating habits your kids learn now … stick!
- Better Fast Food. Choose better-for-you fast food options, such as …
- Smaller burgers topped with your favorite veggies
- Grilled chicken sandwiches with lettuce and tomato
- Salads with low-calorie dressings
- Cups or bags of fresh fruit
- Low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice, or bottled water
- Healthier pizza with veggie toppings like peppers and mushroom and low-fat cheese
- Cook Fast Food … In. Instead of choosing fast food out, cook fast, healthy meals and snacks at home. Need ideas?
- Smaller Plates. Make portion control easier by using a smaller plate.
- Menus. Scan menus and choose fruits and vegetables for healthy eating on the go.
- Top Ten Tips. Follow these parent-friendly recommendations from the Childhood Obesity Task Force > 10 Things Parents Can Do To Help Kids Be Healthier.
- Take the Pledge. Commit to eating more fruits and vegetables by signing up to Join America’s Pledge To Fight Obesity.
- Let Them Help! Involve children in meal planning and preparation.
Here’s how …
ChooseMyPlate.gov (Developing healthy eating habits for preschoolers)
FoodChamps.org (Games and activities that teach kids about healthy eating)
*Poti, Jennifer M., Kiyah J. Duffey, and Barry M. Popkin. “The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: is it fast food or the remainder of the diet?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 23, 2013. doi: 10.3945/acjn. 113.071928, accessed January 21, 2014.