Study: Fast food leads to more calories for adolescents, kids

A recent study showed that children and adolescents consumed more calories per day when eating fast food or food served at full-service restaurants. Some fast-food and restaurant chains have responded to America’s increasing obesity rates by providing healthier options. Last year, Chick-fil-A started selling grilled chicken nuggets for kids. Chick-fil-A’s grilled nuggets, paired with fruit cup and 1 percent milk, have 210 calories and 3 grams of fat. Photo courtesy Chick-fil-A.

There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.

Kids and adolescents consumed more calories when eating fast food and food served at full-service restaurants, a recent study says. They also drank more soda and ate more sugar, sodium and fat.

Researches studied data from the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which sampled 4,717 children between ages 2 and 11 and 4,699 adolescents between ages 12 and 19. They compared calories and the quality of the kids’ diets on days they went out to days when they ate food prepared at home.

According to the study — published online by JAMA Pediatrics — adolescents consumed 309 extra calories days when they ate fast food; and younger kids ate 126 extra calories.

When dining at full-service restaurants, adolescents took in 267 more calories; and younger children consumed 160 more calories.

On the bright side, researchers found that adolescents consumed half as much soda when ordering takeout compared to dining in — likely because of free refills.

We know fast food can be a quick solution to hungry kids on a busy day.

Here are some tips — from the American Heart Association – on how to avoid taking in too many calories when eating fast food.

1. Visit any restaurant chain’s website to learn nutritional information about the menu. Some restaurants also post this information near the counter or offer pamphlets.

2. Pass on “value-size” servings that enable you to choose greater portions of food for a slightly greater price. Larger portions just increase the amount of fat, added sugars, sodium and calories you consume.

3. Skip the sides, which are usually deep-fried. For a healthier side dish, order a side salad or fruit cup.

4. Choose a baked potato over french fries, but have it with vegetables or fat-free or low-fat sour cream or margarine instead of butter, full-fat sour cream or cheese.

5. Choose grilled chicken sandwiches often – they’re a much healthier option than breaded, fried-chicken sandwiches.

6. Ask for a whole-grain bun (some places do offer the substitution.)

7. Drink water or low-fat milk instead of soda.
Avoid ordering sandwiches with double meat. A single serving of meat is 2–3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) and a single meat patty is usually well over a single serving.

8. Hold the mayo and other calorie-laden sandwich sauces.

Leigh Zaleski

I'm a health features reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and healthy living blogger for No Sweat, York. Contact me with story ideas at lzaleski@ydr.com, 717-771-2101 or @leighzaleski on Twitter.

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2 Responses

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