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Childhood Obesity

Learn life-changing information about the prevalence of childhood obesity, and actionable steps that you can take to insure that the children in your life grow up happy and healthy.

Fast Food and Childhood Obesity Advice Articles

Get childhood obesity advice and learn how fast food has affected our overweight kids from Dr. Cederquist, M.D. and bistroMD.

Fast Food and Childhood Obesity Advice Articles

Kids' Nutrition - Kids Meal Monotony

Burgers, fries and chicken nuggets - - not great for our kids' nutrition. The family may be eating fast food or at a fancy restaurant, but the kids' selections are likely to be pretty much the same anywhere.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you the Skinny on Your Health.

Restaurants are in the business of making money, not tracking your kids' nutritional intake. It's cost-effective to offer the tried and true for the children in the party, especially since kids are notoriously hesitant to try new foods.

Yet adding new foods is precisely the way we diversify our diets so that they include the full range of the nutrients we need and helps our kids' nutrition.

But since Americans consume up to a quarter of their calories away from the home today, our kids could easily slip into a rut of high-fat, high-calorie, low-nutrition kids' meals.

Resist the rut. Skip the children's menu. Consider making dining out experiences a time specifically for kids to try new foods by splitting our adult entree and reward them for nutritional adventuring--but not with a plate of fries!

Sugar Drinks and Teen Weight Gain

When he was little, Joey's afternoon snack used to be some fruit, graham crackers and a cup of apple juice or milk. Boy, those were the days!

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you the Skinny on Your Health.

If Joey is like most American kids, by the time he's 19, that milk and juice may be almost completely out of the picture. Research shows that milk and juice consumption drops off among teens as they get older, and it tends to be replaced by other, much less nutritional, drinks.

That's not all. In kids who tend to replace those beverages with sodas, there's an overall increase in caloric intake that exceeds what comes from the sodas. Researchers say that could be because of the snacks that teens tend to eat along with their pop: burgers, fries, chips!

Oddly, that same overall increase wasn't found in kids who drank diet sodas. But that's probably not because they're eating any better, but because, by choosing a diet soda, they just happened to leave some caloric margin for all that junk!

Child Nutrition - Kids' Meals Are Mighty Weighty

Kids aged four to eight should eat about 1,500 calories a day. But when you're eating out, your kid could get half that much from just a single kiddie meal!

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

It used to be that a restaurant kids' meal was a smaller portion for a smaller person. But you wouldn't want to count on that nowadays.

Portion sizes are ballooning everywhere, and so are the kids' calorie counts!

Junior's half-rack of ribs with fries at Chili's checks out at 630 calories. A kid's burger meal with fries at Denny's packs a 720-calorie punch and at Applebee's, that grilled cheese sandwich delivers 520 calories, and that's WITHOUT the fries!

A simple change from fries to a vegetable side dish can make a huge difference in the caloric and nutritional content of that huge meal.

And if you can't skip the fries altogether, just discreetly ask your server to leave about half of them in the kitchen!

Fast Food in Our Fast Lives

Even as awareness about our obesity crisis grows, fast food is still the fastest-growing sector of the American food industry. It's everywhere--in malls, partnered with gas stations, mini-marts, and now, even in schools.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

While fast food is cheap, convenient and tasty, it's also low in fiber, full of highly processed, simple carbohydrates, sodium and, of course, fats.

That's why in some European countries, official nutritional guidelines suggest their citizens eat fast food no more than once a week.

It's true that there has been an effort to diversify the typical menus at fast food restaurants, with virtually every chain offering some kind of salad or low-carb offering.

But so far, the changes are more about marketing than substance. Because with dressings and sauces and, supersizing, we're still talking about some high-calorie eating.

So don't be too quickly convinced by the new health-touting commercials. Fast food is still leading to fast fat.

Childhood Obesity Nutrition - Better Munchies for Teens

Teens buy 60 percent of snack foods sold in the U.S. market. For some teens, up to half of their daily caloric intake comes from snack food sources.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

And since most adults really don't think about whether their snacks are junky, empty calories, could we expect much better from our teens?

As it turns out, we can, if we give them a little choice.

Experiments conducted in high schools showed that when teenagers were actually offered healthier options in school vending machines, for instance, they often chose fruit over a fried snack, or water over soda, especially when the healthier selections were priced just a tad lower than the junk food.

Unfortunately, if they're available at all, healthier foods usually cost more.

Concerned parents could probably change that, and they ought to try. Because if teens are willing to eat better, adults ought to make it as easy as possible.

Better Beverages for Kids

Adults sometimes complain that their efforts to teach kids good dietary choices often fall on deaf ears. But there's new research that shows that kids really are listening.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

A study of British middle schoolers gave some students a year-long program about the obesity and dental health risks of drinking soda.

At the end of the year, the kids in the program reported drinking fewer sodas. And obesity had gone up by 7.5 percent among the control group, who had not had the program, whereas it actually dropped a tiny bit among those who had.

When I speak to kids, I like to drive the soda message home by actually pouring into a glass the 10--that's right, 10--teaspoons of sugar that are in an average soda pop. Kids are appalled, and I believe it's made a number of them change their choices.

We can't control everything our kids eat and drink. But if we give them good options, and teach them their best choices, we probably won't need to.

Fast Food and Childhood Obesity

Girls who eat fast food twice a week or more likely to gain weight during their teen years than girls who eat fast food once a week or less. That seems like a no brainer, doesn't it?

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you the Skinny on Your Health.

Most folks probably could have figured on that health data, even without reading the latest long-term study that says so.

But thanks to some long-overdue changes by the nation's fast fooderies, even teens who can't seem to steer clear of the drive-thru have a better chance in the dietary department today.

Now that almost all the big chain fast food joints have started adding some lower-grease options to their menus, salads, yogurts, even grilled chicken and fish are often alternatives to the traditional fat-fried fare.

And for growing teens who make fast-food dining part of their routine, those options needs to be encouraged.

And there's already plenty of research to show why that's a good idea.

Childhood Obesity - Quality of Life for Heavy Kids

From social isolation, to difficulty with activity, to actual medical problems, heavy kids deal with problems no child should have to confront.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

A small study in 2003 measured the impact of childhood weight problems in terms of quality of life, scoring areas of physical, emotional, and social health, as well as school functioning.

The dramatic result was that the overweight children in the study, aged 5 to 18, scored as poorly as juvenile cancer patients.

The study was recently repeated with more children, but limited to 8-to 13-year-olds. The overall quality-of-life scores were not quite as low as with the original group, but the numbers for obese children were still lower than for normal-weight children.

But significantly, the scores were better for this narrower age group because the younger children showed LESS negative effect in the emotional area, in particular.

That's good for younger children, but it does seem to indicate that it's the tender teen years when the emotional pain of obesity really starts to hurt.

Ruby Tuesday's Quits Portion Experiment

In a move that will set the tone for other restaurants, Ruby Tuesday's has given up on its experiment with supporting healthier eating by serving smaller portions and offering nutritional information on the menus. It seems the patrons weren't happy with the helpful changes.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

Ruby Tuesday last year was the most prominent of national casual dining chains to make significant menu changes in response to a rising hue and cry about massive portions and huge calorie counts in restaurant meals, and how those contribute to the American obesity epidemic.

But the restaurant got a lot of complaints about the changes, and sales faltered, even though consumers had seemed to indicate that's what they wanted.

Of course, the truth is that nobody wants to consistently and unconsciously overeat, develop weight and health problems, suffer painful disease and shorten their life expectancy.

But that's what our eating habits are doing to us. And with no reminders on the menu, we'll have to keep those consequences in mind all on our own when we slip into a restaurant booth.

Years of Life Lost for Today's Diabetic Children

Know any preschoolers? Cute, aren't they? Current research indicates that more than a third of those kids will get diabetes in their lifetime, and their lifetimes will be a lot shorter because of it.

I'm Dr. Caroline Cederquist, giving you The Skinny on Your Health.

When they're young and healthy, it's hard to imagine what a disease like diabetes could cost those little four-year-olds. But with more and more children becoming obese, right along with the rest of the population, it's important to consider those numbers.

Any of today's preschoolers who are diagnosed with Type II diabetes by age 10 are expected to lose 18 years of life because of that disease and problems associated with it.

18 years.

Diabetes is almost completely preventable, but the data so far are pretty clear: the longer you live with it, the shorter you live.

So if there are any chubby little kids in your world, do what you can to keep them fit today, and to show them how to keep themselves fit as far as possible into their tomorrows.

bistroMD Team Logo
Written By bistroMD Team. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on June 17, 2019.


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