Fast Food Add 300 Calories to Kids’ Daily Diets, Study Says

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Young people who eat fast food consume 300 more calories per meal than if they’d eaten homemade meals, a new study recently published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine finds.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found that young people are consuming higher amounts of fat, sodium and sugar when eating meals at fast food establishments than when they eat meals at home. The study ultimately found that fast food visits resulted in young people ingesting 13 percent more sugar, 17 percent more sodium, and 25 percent more saturated fat than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) daily-recommended values. 

Researchers culled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, examining children’s dietary habits over a five-year window from 2003 until 2008. Combined, researchers assessed a population of more than 9,000 subjects, ranging in ages from two to 19. 

On average, researchers said that subjects ages two to 11 took in an extra 126 calories per fast food meal, while adolescents - subjects ages 12 to 19 - consumed on average 309 more calories. The results for full-service restaurants were slightly lower, with children consuming an additional 160 calories per meal and adolescents an extra 267 calories.

“Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption is associated with higher net total energy intake,” the report reads. “And poorer diet quality.”

According to the authors of the report, the soda intake of adolescents was approximately twice as large when visiting fast food eateries than when eating meals at home. Additionally, researchers say that the negative diet effects were much more prevalent among youth in lower-income homes than it was for children and adolescents in more affluent households.