The Effects of Restaurant Food on Children

The Effects of Restaurant Food on Children

In the 1950’s women predominately were homemakers, staying at home all day to care for the children, prepare meals for their family, and maintain the household while men were primarily responsible for making money in the work field to provide for their family. Today however, it is not uncommon that both parents in the household are working all day to support their families. This means that less and less meals are being prepared in the home and more and more meals are being purchase from a drive through window. Preparing family dinners rather than purchasing food from restaurants has the potential to decrease childhood obesity, help facilitate healthy communication, and teach children healthy eating habits that they will use for the rest of their lives.
The rise in childhood obesity has often, in part, been blamed on the rise of the fast food industry. Fast food has higher caloric value than most meals cooked from home and the increase in consumption of these higher caloric foods leads to an increasing risk for obesity, especially in children. In 2004, the Journal of Pediatrics published an article titled, “Fast Food and Obesity in Children.” This study hypothesized that the increase in fast food consumption is directly linked to the risk factors that lead to obesity. The study surveyed 6212 children and adolescents (ages 4-19 years old). The study found that children and adolescents that did consume fast food on a typical day consumed more calories than those children and adolescents that did not eat fast food. “Children and adolescents who ate fast food on a typical day, compared with those who did not, consumed more total and saturated fat, more total carbohydrate and more energy per gram of solid food (i.e., higher non-beverage energy density.)…Fast food may also compromise diet quality in ways that might affect body weight by displacing more healthful food options. Children who ate fast food compared with those who did not consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages, less milk, and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables.” (Bowman 132) Childhood obesity is not only physically unhealthy for children, but also emotionally unhealthy and socially damaging. Emotionally, obesity leads to a negative body image that effects self-esteem and may also lead to depression. Socially, a negative stigma has been paired with obesity. This may lead to teasing and bullying, discrimination, and negative stereotyping.

The prices of restaurant food, especially fast food has become cheaper than the cost of buying the ingredients at the grocery store for a home cooked meal. Most fast food restaurants have “value menus” or a selection of food that can be purchased for just one dollar. The comparison in prices is just another factor that persuades parents to purchase food from restaurants rather than purchasing all of the ingredients necessary to make that same meal (healthier) at home. “Americans spend nearly half of their food budget on foods prepared outside of the home and consume about one-third of daily calories from outside sources, much of it from fast food” (Young and Nestle 239).

Parents are able to establish healthy eating habits for their children when they prepare meals at home. This will help their children make healthy food choices throughout their lives. If parents do not seize this opportunity to teach their children about nutrition then their children will be at higher risk for obesity, diseases like diabetes, and heart problems. When parents prepare meals for their family, they are able to better control the portion size of the meals served. In 2007 the Journal of Public Health Policy published a paper showing how the portions served in fast food restaurants have increased from two to five times larger. “Plates have gone from 10 inches in 1990 to 12 inches in 2010. With larger portions people tend to eat more, but cooking at home allows you to control serving sizes and prevent overeating” (Young and Nestle 238).

Home cooked meals are not just a place for nutritional food, but are also a place where healthy communication occurs between family members, and where the parents are able to observe their child’s attitudes and behavior. Parents are able to talk to their children about their schooling, get updates about their child’s lives, and share importance information with one another. but its not enough to eat at home u also have to eat as a family. "the family dinner. About a decade ago, research started appearing on the family dinner, and the news was uniformly good. According to the scientists, children who ate with their families were less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, struggle with asthma, get depressed and have eating disorders."

Home cooked meals have lasting effects on children’s lifestyles. By eating more food at home and eating less food prepared by restaurants, children will be healthier, have better family relationships, and learn from home the importance of balanced nutrition.

Works Cited

Brownell, Kelly D. "Fast Food and Obesity in Children." Pediatrics 113.1 (2004): 132. Biomedical Reference Collection: Basic. EBSCO. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

Young, Lisa R., and Marion Nestle. "Portion Sizes and Obesity: Responses of Fast-Food Companies." Journal of Public Health Policy 28.2 (2007): 238-248. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.
ALIX SPIEGEL. "The Family Dinner Deconstructed." National Public Radio. (2008)