Families make a stop at drive-thru food chains for many reasons from convenience to price, but a new study from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that whatever the reason, a third of US kids eat fast food on any given day and receive 12% of their calories from fast food restaurants. Even doctors’ families fall into the fast food vortex, according to WSAZ-TV West Virginia.
Dr. Janet Wallace of St. Mary’s Family Care Center Highlawn said she catches herself pulling into a fast food establishment more often than she would like.
“Fast food, junk food, those all contribute majorly to the skyrocketing problem of childhood obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol,” Dr. Wallace said. “What affects them now is going to affect them into their adulthood. “
It is not easy, says Dr. Wallace, but parents have to teach children how to make good food choices. Even at a drive-thru there are often grilled options, yogurts, salads, and even fruit choices. She adds that kids should skip the sodas and go with bottled water.
The one-third of US children measure is about the same as it was in the 1990s, so at least the number is not going up, said Cheryl Fryar, one of the authors of the report. The number of calories that children get from fast food daily has been at the 12% mark for the last decade, which is only slightly higher than the 11% previously reported for adult intake.
Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press writes that scientists have been warning for quite awhile that drive-thru french fries and takeout pizza are heavy on calories and can contribute to kids becoming overweight. Childhood obesity affects about 17% of kids, a number that has stayed the same over the last ten years.
The study, which took place in 2011-2012, asked about 3,100 children ages 2 to 19, or their parents, what they had eaten over the past 24 hours. The survey included people who almost never ate fast food, along with those who ate a lot of it. Adolescents got about 17% of their calories from fast food, while 9% of younger children did the same.
Black, white and Hispanic children took in about the same amount of calories from fast food at 12%. Asian kids received 8% of their daily calories from drive-thru food. Although some studies have found this not to be true, the CDC study found no significant difference between kids from families of different income levels.
Although the study did not give calorie totals, other government research has found that kids eat about 1,900 calories a day. That means an average of 245 calories daily come from fast food, about the number of calories in a basic McDonald’s hamburger, reports CBS News and the Associated Press.
Last year a study published in Clinical Pediatrics found that the fifth-graders who ate the most fast food also had lower improvements in test scores in reading, math, and science by eighth grade. And a recent bill proposed in New York City would require that any fast food meals sold with a toy must have lower calories, sodium, and fat. The meals would also be required to have more nutrition through fruit, vegetables, or whole grains.
US kids see an average of three to five fast-food advertisements per day, says Allison Aubrey, reporting for NPR.
“We’re programmed to seek sweet and salty foods, and fast food knows how to pander to those cravings,” says pediatrician Stephen Pont at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, who is chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics section on obesity.
Pont added that teenagers, who seem to feel invincible, are not as sensitive to the long-term effects that what they eat can have on their health. It is not an easy habit to change, either, as battling the temptation of salt, sugar, and fat is a challenge.
On the positive side, McDonald’s has downsized its Happy Meal portions, added some new salads, and added kale to some of its breakfast bowls in select locations.