Prof. Kathy Conner
August 8, 2011
Childhood Obesity and the Nutritional Value of Fast Foods
Obesity in American children is rising at an alarming rate. Obese children are developing many lingering health issues, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. These problems are accompanied by detrimental consequences, including heart attacks and death. A study has shown that about 110 million children are now classified as being overweight (having a BMI, body mass index between the 85th and 95th percentiles) or obese (having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile) (Fitzgibbon, Hayman, & Haire-Joshu, 2008). There are more than a few different factors that should be considered when researching this topic, such as the fact that obese children are not as active as they need to be which also contributes to the aforementioned complications. However, one of the largest contributions to this epidemic is the consumption of fast foods by young children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “fast food has become a prominent feature of the diet of children in the United States and, increasingly, throughout the world. However, few studies have examined the effects of fast-food consumption on any nutrition or health-related outcome” (Bowman, Gortmaker, Ebbeling, Pereira & Ludwig, 2004). If fast food establishments implement the service of nutritional food products, the percentage of obese children would drop tremendously over a given period of time.
A report published on www.fastfoodmarketing.org details information gathered from an online survey consisting of 689 parents in August/September of 2010. The report studied how many times parents visited a fast food restaurant in a week’s time. The findings were astonishing. It was discovered that 84% of respondents reported that they had purchased lunch or dinner for their children from any fast food restaurant in that week and 79% had purchased lunch or dinner from one of the four restaurants that were examined in detail (McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and Wendy’s). McDonalds was the most popular of the votes, collecting 66% from parents, while Burger King and Subway split the votes with 25%, and Wendy’s coming in last with 23% of the votes (Fast Food Facts, 2010). Parents who visited all four restaurants reported that the main reason they chose the restaurant was because their child likes it there (39%), convenience (25%), and value (12%). Only 5% reported going to these restaurants because they provided healthy menu options (Fast Food Facts, 2010).
A total of 479 kids’ meal combinations were available at these four restaurants, varying from 81 Mighty Kids’ Meal at McDonalds to 138 BK Kids’ Meal at Burger King. According to www.fastfoodmarketing.org, based on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on School Meals Guidelines, children ages 6-12 should not exceed 650 calories per meal and children ages 3-5 should not exceed 410 calories. There were three nutrition criteria that the four restaurants needed to meet in order for them to be acceptable for children. The Nutrient Profile Index, the calorie limit, and the sodium limit. Out of the four restaurants, .5% met all three nutrition criteria for the elementary school age (6-12) children and .4% met the criteria for preschool-age (3-5) children. Subway had the best overall quality meals-28% of its kids’ meal combinations met all three criteria for the 6-12 year olds and 19% met for the 3-5 year olds. The majority of kids’ meal combinations did not exceed the 650-calorie maximum for elementary school-age children; however only Subway had more than 25% of kids’ meal combinations that fell below the 410 calorie limit for preschool-age children. Here are a few of the calorie ranges for the four restaurants: McDonalds-275-700 for the regular happy meal, 365-840 for the Mighty Kids meal,...