Surprising Facts About Fast Food

Family schedules can get hectic fast. With school, sports and homework to tend to, parents are often caught in a juggling act. Busy days and nights generally lead to easier dinner options, which in most cases means fast food.

If all of this sounds too familiar, you’re not alone. Studies found 25 percent of Americans consume fast food every day. Though the majority of people recognize the unhealthiness of moderate fast food intake, many are unaware of its long-term effects.

Poor School Performance

Foods high in sugar content often create a spike in blood sugar, which ultimately results in a feeling of extreme fatigue as those levels drop. This energy depletion 64657662_f382e794f5_zmakes it difficult for children to concentrate for extended periods of time. In fact, researchers analyzed the correlation between fast food consumption and math and reading test scores in 12,000 fifth-graders. The results showed that children who ate fast food four to six times per week tested significantly lower on both tests compared with children who did not consume these items.

Increased Depression

Children who eat fast food on a regular basis generally have vitamin deficiencies. A study determined that people with a diet high in processed food are 51 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Further, the likelihood of an overweight child succumbing to depression may be even greater due to low self-esteem or body image.

Chronic Conditions

The effects of fast food and resulting weight gain extend far beyond an enlarged pant size. The regular consumption of these items has been linked to the development of asthma, eczema and rhinitis (chronic, stuffy nose). A study surveyed 500,000 kids from 31 countries between the ages of six to seven and 13 to 14. In both cases, kids who ate fast food three times a week or more had increased risks of asthma, rhinitis and eczema. In some cases, researchers recorded a 39 percent increase in severe asthma risk for teens and 27 percent for younger kids. More importantly, further research confirmed that just three or more servings of fruit daily reduced the severity of symptoms for all three conditions.

While fast food will never be the healthiest option when it comes to dining out, there are nutritional items available:

  • Fried foods are packed with saturated fat. Try switching out French fries for a side salad or baked option. Grilled chicken is also a great alternative to chicken nuggets.
  • Skip the soda. Many chains offer bottled water or low fat milk, which will cut sugar intake and keep kids hydrated.
  • Though it might seem like a deal, larger options mean more calories. Try to keep portions small and stick to the kid’s menu.
  • Be cautious of condiments – “special sauces” and mayonnaise can easily add up to a lot of additional calories from fat and sugar.
  • Set a good example at the drive-through window. Children will be much more likely to follow your lead than to make healthier decisions on their own.
  • Keep a strict limit on the number of times per month that you eat fast food or dine out. Meal planning and family meals at home are better for the entire family, from cost savings, family bonding and the health of the entire family.

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Photo Credit: SteFou! (feature) Aaron Jacobs via Flickr

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