Fast Food

  • Fast-food chains that have more than 20 locations in the United States must display calorie counts on menus, starting May 2017. 
The success of calorie-labeling requires consumers who see the calorie labels, are motivated to eat healthy, and understand how many calories they should be eating. 

Simply presenting calorie information is not enough.  To be effective, nutrition labeling must be clearer and larger.  It must also reach regular fast-food eaters.

The trend toward nutrition labeling on fast-food menus began in response to the U.S. obesity epidemic. About 38% of adults and 17% of teenagers are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity has been linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.  

Customers must first know what their recommended caloric intake should be -- and many don't, according to the study.  Less than half of those surveyed at the restaurants correctly estimated the number of calories they should consume daily.  To put calorie content into perspective: 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.

"Awareness is the first step in the change process, so if consumers begin to see the numbers, eventual change is possible," Connie Diekman said.

Motivation is also critical, Diekman said, "and achieving that requires time, education, a desire to change, and an environment that supports the changed behaviors."

As a society, we have a ways to go to provide an environment that encourages and supports healthy eating.  The study was published online recently in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.    (Sources:  Andrew Breck, Ph.D. candidate, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University, New York City; Connie Diekman, M.Ed, R.D., director of university nutrition, Washington University in St. Louis; October 2016, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, online, HealthDay News, Nov. 28, 2016)
  • Over a third of U.S. youths consume pizza or other fast foods every day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  On any given day U.S. children between the ages of 2-19 eat fast food, in fast food restaurants, things like:
    ∑ Pizza
    ∑ fried chicken
    ∑ tacos
    ∑ hamburgers
    ∑ fries

    It didnít matter if the kids were rich or poor, even weight status had little bearing on the appetite for fast foods. The only real difference was in Asian American kids.  They were less likely to visit fast food restaurants.  It is speculated that that is because fast food has not caught on as much in Asian households.

    Another significant difference was in age.  Children ages 2-11 were a lot less likely than 12-19 to dine out on fast food. 

    Fast food is considered heavy in calories, and scientists have pointed at drive-thru french fries and takeout pizza as contributors to kids being overweight.  Childhood obesity, a national health concern, has been stable at about 17% over the last decade. 

    Adult consumption of fast food mirrors what it is seeing in kids, according to the CDC.  (Source:  The report was based on data from the CDCíS 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; and ďMany U.S. kids eat fast food every day,Ē CBS News Sept 16, 2015)

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