Fast Food: We Don't Have to Trade Our Kids' Health for Convenience
In Caloric Intake From Fast Food Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2011–2012, a report published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and written by Sundeep Vikraman, M.D., M.P.H.; Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H.; and Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., two key facts jumped out at me:
Just over one-third of children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day.
Children and adolescents consumed on average about one-eighth of their daily calories from fast food restaurants.
Busy parents rely on fast food to get everyone fed while juggling school, work and extra-curricular activities. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not established “take-out night” all those years ago. Take-Out Tuesday occurs only once a week, but it gives the kids their fast-food fix and affords me a night off from the kitchen.
As parents, we have to be careful when it comes to convenience foods. The report also points out the link between fast food and poor diet quality among children. So how do we strike a balance between convenience and healthy diets?
Limit Fast Food
We do enjoy take-out night, but we plan family meals for the rest of the week. When the kids begged for me to swing through a drive through on the way home from basketball practice, for example, I asked them what day it was. If it wasn’t Take-Out Tuesday, they knew we were headed home to eat.
Make Better Fast Food Choices
Maybe once a week isn’t feasible with your family’s schedule. That’s OK. There are lots of healthy choices on the fast food menus, today. Choose milk to drink and fruit or salad for the side. Select chicken over beef and grilled over fried. If your children like salads, they could split a grilled chicken salad from the regular menu.
Food at Home Can Be Fast, Too
Sandwiches and quick breakfast foods are perfectly acceptable weekday meals when your schedules are packed and you’re exhausted. Have some carrot and celery sticks at the ready for a quick side or evening snack. There are no laws that require parents to provide three-course dinners daily.
Counter the high calorie, fat and salt counts with plenty of exercise and water. If you just picked up your kids from soccer practice and they are dripping with sweat and have been chugging bottled waters all afternoon, don’t fret over the occasional packet of small fries. Just don’t make fast food a daily habit.
Worried about breaking the fast food addiction? We have a new blogger starting later this month. Registered Dietician Cindy Silver will be providing monthly tips on how to shop and cook for families who want to develop healthier eating habits in her new nutrition blog on PiedmontParent.com.