Fast food is a culprit once again, as new research shows that the obesity epidemic is partly due to a growing number of kids eating out and bringing takeout food home to the dinner table.
Since 1994, the proliferation of the number of people taking to the drive-thru and buying prepared foods from supermarkets, convenience stories and other quick stops has caused the number of calories eaten away from home to spike from 23.4 percent to 33.9 percent from 1977 to 2006. However, a good portion of that food is brought home for consumption. And this is leading to more overweight kids.
“Eating outside the home is actually fueling the increased energy intake for kids,” says study author Jennifer Poti, from the university’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, which surveyed kids ages 2 through 18. “Parents need to be interested in both the food source and location where it is eaten, which both significantly influence energy intake.”
Parents needs to be especially in tune with what their children are eating when they go back to school.
When it comes to helping kids eat healthier, Kate Adamick is a pro. Adamick is co-founder of Cook for America and is working to transform school lunches into healthier, positive eating experiences. She says a “confluence of events in the 1970s started the ball rolling in the wrong direction” when it came to how eating poorly became more common than not among kids.
“The nation was struggling through a recession, food prices were soaring, federal commodity crop subsidies were changing, and fast-food chains — and their accompanying full-color television ads — were becoming ubiquitous. Suddenly, Americans believed that they deserved a break today — every day — and that they could have it their way. The perception — and ultimately, the definition— of food changed for most Americans,” Adamick says.
Soon, even school lunches became “little more than processed food-like substances wrapped in space-age packaging decorated with popular cartoon characters and purporting to be ‘new,’ ‘improved,’ and ‘better for you,'” she says.
Adamick and Cook for America encourage holistic, systematic change in school systems and the way food is prepared in an effort to combat childhood obesity. She says she is optimistic we are moving in the right direction to more healthily feed children, but parents need to play a strong role in encouraging healthy eating, as well – that means instilling the idea that dessert and sweets don’t have to be an everyday treat.
“My hope for parents is that they find the fortitude to fight this trend and reeducate their children about how much more enjoyable treats are when you don’t have them all the time,” she says.
For more stories from Kate Adamick and healthy eating experts on genConnect:
- Kate Adamick: Where School Lunches Went Wrong and Why She’s Optimistic
- Cook for America’s Chef Kate Adamick: Transforming School Lunches
- Back to School – Back to Sloppy Joes?
- Healthy Back-to-School Lunches for Your Child – And You
- Changing What Our Children Eat at School
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