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Nutrition for Kids: Kids Are Eating Too Much Fast Food; How Juice Plus+ Can Help

New numbers were just released detailing the role that fast food plays in children’s diets in the United States — and it’s not pretty. According to data collected about nutrition for kids as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2010, American youth get 14.1 percent of their daily calories from fast food restaurants. (They must be taking their cue from American adults, who get only slightly less: 11.3 percent.)[i]

You probably already know why that’s a problem. Fast food is typically highly processed and laden with salt, fat, and sugar, while skimping on fruits and vegetables. Not surprisingly, children who eat the most fast food are also the most likely to become obese. Childhood obesity is a real problem in this country. Over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, so that 18 percent of kids and 21 percent of adolescents were obese in 2012.[ii]

The new study, which analyzed surveys of 12,378 youth aged 4 to 19 about everything they had eaten over a 24-hour period and where, found that not only did kids get more of their calories from fast food than adults did, but the food they ate at fast food restaurants provided a disproportionate amount of sodium (15.9 percent) and solid fat (17.9 percent) to their diets. The research represents the largest existing collection of data about Americans’ eating habits.

Another startling fact that emerged from the study was that 35.7 percent of the kids surveyed, or more than a third, reported having eaten at a fast food restaurant the previous day. African-American kids ate more fast food than their white and Hispanic counterparts. For these youngsters, 16 percent of their calories came from fast food. This is probably due to the fact that low-income and minority neighborhoods tend to have a higher concentration of fast food restaurants — making cheap, calorie-dense food more easily accessible — than other demographic groups.[iii]

Where are our youth consuming fast food? Hamburger restaurants provided the most calories, followed by pizza places, sandwich shops, Mexican-themed fast food, and chicken restaurants.

To their credit, fast food companies have started adding healthier options to their menus. However, the healthy changes have been negated by the addition of unhealthy foods. “In December 2013, only 33 out of more than 5,000 kids’ meal combinations met expert nutrition standards,” explains an information video on Fast Food FACTS, a website developed by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale.[iv]

So does this mean you should never take your kids to a fast food restaurant? Not at all.

While I am not a big fan of fast food myself, I have been known to indulge in pizza on occasion. In fact, when I was growing up, my family ate it every Friday night. The problem is not stopping at a fast food place with the kids on a particularly hectic weeknight or on a long drive. It’s making a habit of eating this kind of food on a regular basis, to the point where it constitutes 14 percent of kids’ calories, or the equivalent of an entire day’s worth of calories per week.

When we eat excess junk food, not only are we getting too much sodium, added sugar, and unhealthy fats, but we’re also not getting all the vitamins, minerals, and health-giving phytonutrients found in fruit and vegetables. And while there’s no substitute for eating a healthy diet, sometimes we all fall short. When that happens, Juice Plus+ can help bridge the gap between what we should eat and what we do eat.

Importantly though, taking Juice Plus+ does more than that. According to the results of the Juice Plus+ Children’s Health Study, kids who take Juice Plus+ improve their health and nutrition habits on several fronts. They eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. They drink less soda and more water. And they eat less fast food. In fact, parents report that 64 percent of kids taking Juice Plus+ for four to eight months — or nearly two-thirds — eat less fast food than they did before they started. Among those taking Juice Plus+ for three years, that figure rises to 81 percent.

Now that’s happier news.




[i] Rehm C.D., Drewnowski A. A new method to monitor the contribution of fast food restaurants to the diets of US children. PLOS One. July 25, 2014.

[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed August 13, 2014.

[iii] Hickson D.A., et al. Associations of fast food restaurant availability with dietary intake and weight among African Americans in the Jackson Heart Study, 2000-2004. Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101(Suppl 1): S301-S309.

[iv] Fast Food f.a.c.t.s. The 2013 FACTS about fast food nutrition and marketing to children and teens. Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University.


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