Children who frequent fast-food restaurants are more likely to eat foods high in saturated fats and sugars at home, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina. A published study came to the conclusion that even if all fast-food restaurants were to close today, the diets of the majority of frequent fast-food eaters wouldn’t change much.

The authors of the latest research combed through a national database of Americans' health and nutrition behaviors and grouped 4,466 American kids — from ages 2 to 18 — according to what they ate when they were not eating food purchased at a fast-food restaurant.
Here’s what the researchers found:
  • Children who are high consumers of fast food are 2.2 times as likely to follow a Western diet (a diet of non-fast food items that are high in saturated fats and sugars) at home than non-consumers of fast food.
  • Children who are low consumers of fast food (less than 30 percent of their calories coming from fast-food sources) are 1.5 times as likely to follow a Western diet than non-consumers of fast food.
  • When high consumers of fast food followed prudent diets at home (high in fruits and vegetables), they were “significantly less likely to be overweight or obese.”
The authors of the study made the conclusion that “the location where foods are obtained may not be as important as the nutritional quality of the foods consumed.” They also concluded that the efforts to educate the public about the effects of fast food may not be enough to reduce childhood obesity. The whole diet of a child needs to be addressed.

The take away here? For me it's that kids rarely have control over the foods that are available to them. It’s up to parents, schools and caregivers to provide nutritious meals and snacks. We can blame the fast-food industry for making our children overweight, but those businesses are only one small piece of the obesity puzzle. Adults, we have to do right by our kids and put good foods within their reach every single day.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Children who eat a lot of fast food often eat poorly at home, study finds
To fight childhood obesity, the whole diet — not just fast food — needs to be addressed.