Calorie counts appearing on fast-food menus could be beneficial
to your child's health.
Parents presented with fast-food calorie information averaged
102 fewer calories for their children compared to the group without
the information, according to the study.
"I think our study supports the idea that providing parents with
nutritional information gives them the tools to make a healthier
choice," says lead author Dr. Poonja Tandon of the Center for Child
Health, Behavior and Development, Children's Research Institute and
Department of General Pediatrics at the University of Washington in
The study surveyed 99 parents of 3- to 6-year-olds with picture
menus. Half the parents had calorie information per item, while the
other half did not. No correlation was found between calories
ordered and the frequency of fast-food dining.
"We know that fast-food consumption and childhood obesity are
high and rising in our country," says Tandon. "When families eat
out, a missing piece of information is what is in the food they're
Families may eat out because it's convenient or cheap, but
children consume almost twice as many calories eating food made
outside the home, according to another study.
Increased calorie intake contributes to obesity, which can cause
health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention found the percentage of young
people who are obese has about tripled since 1980.
Even small changes in calorie consumption could prevent extra
weight gain and obesity in children, says Tandon.
She hopes more areas mandate nutritional information on
fast-food menus. For locations without guidelines, Tandon says
parents can lower children's calorie intake by ordering smaller
portion sizes and choosing water or milk over fountain drinks.
Some jurisdictions, like New York City, have mandated
nutritional labeling laws, while the idea has been introduced in
areas like Chicago. These laws require calorie information to be
available when ordering, not online or on a poster.
Tandon says another potential benefit of requiring nutrition
labeling is that restaurants might change their offerings. "They
may start to offer healthier options even if individuals are not
necessarily influenced to change their order."
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