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Fast food nation has new casualties: Children

By Holly L. Walters     Sep 18, 2015 in Food
Childhood obesity is becoming a major concern for parents nationwide. Unfortunately, new reports on childhood obesity do nothing to alleviate those fears. According to these reports, kids will probably be prone to more diseases than middle age adults.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey came out with startling numbers, according to Business Insider. Based on 2011 and 2012 figures, the average American child gets approximately 12 percent of their caloric intake from fast food.
This is the equivalent of consuming a large order of French fries, chocolate dipped ice cream cone or hamburger from your favorite fast food restaurant. While the percentages are high, they’re down from a 2006 survey where the numbers came in at 13 percent. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 relied more on fast food with a rate of 17 percent. Children between the ages of 2 and 11 scored at 8.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the high number of calories, fat and excessive sodium found in meals at restaurants and fast food establishments have not deterred adults from eating out. Americans on the go consume as much as 200 more calories per day eating out than they would if they prepared a homemade meal for the family, and approximately 11 percent of the calories ingested in the adult daily diet is consumed by eating fast food.
Children are usually along for the ride when parents pick up fast food at the drive through and learn the habits of eating processed fare by mimicking their parent's eating habits.
The Role of Savvy Marketing in Fast Food
In addition to the on-the-go culture that many families are experiencing today, marketing geniuses behind the fast food campaigns know their audience and focus their advertising efforts toward packaged children's meals with toys or famous cartoon figures inside. Today’s families are so busy with work, extra-curricular activities and social obligations that it can be difficult to find time to prepare and sit down to a home cooked meal.
Fast food is an easy option that is affordable in price and tastes good. But, in many cases, it’s not a healthy way for both children and adults to get the required amount of nutrients.
Chronic Illnesses Popping up in Children
The Food Research and Action Center also released statistical information from the CDC that indicates that childhood obesity rates have nearly doubled over the last 30 years, with a rise from 7 percent in 1980, to approximately 18 percent by the year 2012. In regards to adolescents, the figures jumped from 5 percent to a whopping 21 percent in the same time frame.
With the added weight, children are also experiencing a host of illnesses and diseases that are common among middle age adults. These include liver disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Parents often fail to realize the importance of preparing a healthy diet for their children. They figure that since they’re young, they can enjoy eating what they want now and worry about it later in life.
Healthy Fixes Require Planning, Preparation
Dietitians who spoke out to USA Today
about the growing obesity problem in children and its affect on their health indicate that, while good health doesn’t happen overnight, parents can do their part to prevent childhood obesity and disease.
Their recommendations involve planning and preparing healthy food choices ahead of time. For instance, instead of stopping at a fast food restaurant after baseball practice, parents can bring healthy snacks and sandwiches prepared at home for their kids to enjoy.
In addition, they stated that if you don’t have enough time to cook dinner when you get home from work, make a few meals over the weekend and freeze them. Once you get home from work, you can pop the prepared meals in the oven. This allows you the chance to eat healthy and get a meal on the table fast. Simple after school snacks to have ready for your young and adolescent children include string cheese, apples, whole-grain crackers, peanut butter and carrot sticks. Keep the items in the refrigerator easy to see and accessible.
To prevent your children from turning their nose up at mealtime, you can include them in the planning and preparation. Each child gets a duty such as making the salad, adding in herbs and stirring. You can also allow them to be included in the meal planning. Instead of picking up tacos at your local fast food joint, you can prepare your own healthy version of a Mexican fiesta by incorporating veggies and low-fat protein into your recipes.
If you find yourself pressed for time, you can still eat out. However, you can still make healthy food choices. You can do this by substituting French fries for a sweet or baked potato and replacing fried chicken with grilled meats.
Dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, owner of, also spoke to USA Today about the problem of fast food children’s meals and their popularity with small children. The toys included in the take out packaging are very appealing to children, and she recommends that if your child is pestering you to get these meals, you can get around it by purchasing prizes on your own and serving it with a healthy meal at home.
More about Fast food, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Calories, Fat, Sodium
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