Contribution of fast food to children’s diets


A study published in PLOS ONE shows that 14% of children’s’ calories come from fast food. The study also examines what types of fast food children consume. The researchers used the first 24-hr recall for 12,378 children in the 2003–2010 cycles of the nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003–2010). NHANES data identify foods by location of origin, including stores and fast food restaurants (FFR).

A novel custom algorithm divided FFRs into eight segments and assigned meals and snacks to each. These included burger, pizza, sandwich, Mexican, Asian, fish, and coffee/snack restaurants. The contribution of each restaurant type to intakes of energy and other dietary constituents was then assessed by age group (4–11 years and 12–19 years) and by race/ethnicity.

They found that store-bought foods and beverages provided 64.8% of energy, 61.9% of sodium, 68.9% of added sugars, and 60.1% of solid fats. Fast food restaurants provided 14.1% of energy, 15.9% of sodium, 10.4% of added sugars, and 17.9% of solid fats. Among FFR segments, burger restaurants provided 6.2% of total energy, 5.8% of sodium, 6.2% of added sugars, and 7.6% of solid fats. Less energy was provided by pizza (3.3%), sandwich (1.4%), Mexican (1.3%), and chicken restaurants (1.2%). Non-Hispanic black children obtained a greater proportion of their total energy (7.4%), sodium (7.1%), and solid fats (9.5%) from burger restaurants as compared to non-Hispanic white children (6.0% of energy, 5.5% of sodium, and 7.3% of solid fat).


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