Kids consume more soda and calories when eating out

November 5, 2012

Children and adolescents consume more calories and soda and have poorer nutrient-intake on days they eat at either fast-food or full-service restaurants, as compared to days they eat meals at—or from—home.

A new study, by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and published online by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, is the first to look separately at and full-service restaurants. The researchers examined calorie intake, diet quality, and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly soda, on days when youngsters ate out as compared to days they did not. They used data from the three waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years between 2003 and 2008, which included 4,717 children ages 2 to 11 and 4,699 ages 12 to 19.

At restaurants, the researchers found, youths consumed higher amounts of sugar, total fat, saturated fat and sodium.

Take-out fared better in one regard—the researchers found adolescents consumed twice as much when eating in the restaurant, as compared to when they ate the restaurant food at home.

"We attribute that to the free refills," says Lisa Powell, professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Children and adolescents also drank less milk on days when they ate at restaurants, she said.

In earlier studies Powell and colleagues found that 41 percent of adolescents consume fast food on a given day, in an amount that averages almost 1,000 . One-third of children ages 2 to 11 consume fast food on a given day.

The new study showed that on days when adolescents ate fast food, they consumed an additional 309 calories, suggesting they don't reduce their non-restaurant food intake enough to compensate. Young children took in an additional 126 calories. Full-service dining caused increases of about 267 calories for teens and 160 calories for children.

The concern, Powell said, is that kids are consuming fast food too frequently, and not in moderation.

Limiting consumption from restaurants would help "improve diet outcomes among children and youth," she said. Better nutritional standards are needed "to improve the range of healthy food options available, in order to turn around the obesity trend."

The researchers also found fast food had even greater adverse effects on diet for lower-income children, potentially increasing health disparities. Lower-income teens who consumed fast food took in more sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium than their higher-income peers.

"When lower-income youths are eating fast food, they are choosing more energy-dense, lower quality foods that tend to be higher in fats and sodium and can be purchased cheaply," said Powell, who conducts her research at UIC's Institute for Health Research and Policy.

"They are not going to the fast-food restaurant and getting a salad or the healthier turkey sub with lots of veggies."

Fast food is heavily promoted to through television ads, the researchers say. Fast-food restaurants tend to cluster around schools and are more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods.

"We need an environment that promotes healthy rather than unhealthy food and beverage choices," Powell said.

Explore further: Parents' work influences how often family meals are eaten outside of home

More information: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Published online November 5, 2012. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.417

Related Stories

Parents' work influences how often family meals are eaten outside of home

May 6, 2011
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans are spending about half their food budget in restaurants. As it is widely known, food prepared away from home, as compared to food prepared at home, is ...

What's in a kids meal? Not happy news

August 3, 2011
High-calorie, high-sodium choices were on the menu when parents purchased lunch for their children at a San Diego fast-food restaurant. Why? Because both children and adults liked the food and the convenience.

Children eating more, and more frequently outside the home

July 25, 2011
As childhood obesity rises and the American diet shifts towards increasing consumption of foods eaten or prepared outside of the home, concerns about the nutritional quality and the total consumption of such foods are also ...

As unhealthy food outlets multiply, teens eat more junk

July 27, 2011
Got lots of fast food restaurants and other outlets that sell junk food in your neighborhood? Then your teen is more likely to nosh regularly on burgers and fries and wash them down with a soda.

Recommended for you

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

Searching for a link between achy joints and rainy weather in a flood of data, researchers come up dry

December 13, 2017
Rainy weather has long been blamed for achy joints. Unjustly so, according to new research from Harvard Medical School. The analysis, published Dec. 13 in BMJ, found no relationship between rainfall and joint or back pain.

Mistletoe and (a large) wine: Seven-fold increase in wine glass size over 300 years

December 13, 2017
Our Georgian and Victorian ancestors probably celebrated Christmas with more modest wine consumption than we do today - if the size of their wine glasses are anything to go by. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.