CLEVELAND, OHIO — Can living near a fast food restaurant impact our children’s waistlines?
According to a new study, it can.
The study looked at data on 3,507,542 children over a four year period.
Researchers found that children who were at least a half a city block away from the nearest fast food restaurant were between 2.5 and 4.4 percent less likely to be obese than kids who lived closer to fast food.
Jennifer Hyland, RD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the study, but said the results are not too surprising, given the items served at fast food restaurants are typically high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
“Unfortunately, a lot of these foods are highly processed, and they’re going to be elevated in a lot of things that, we just know, aren’t beneficial for kids or adults alike,” she said.
But, if fast food is the only option, Hyland said there are some better choices that parents can make at the counter.
Make sure kids are eating kid-sized meals, for starters, and opt for grilled items, instead of red meat and fried foods.
Above all, skip the sugary soda.
Salads are usually a good option - and if they cost a little more, consider drinking water instead of putting money towards a sugary drink.
And if you’re bringing fast-food home, Hyland said you can fill-in the nutritional ‘gaps’ by adding healthy options to your family’s meal.
“Even if you have to get fast food, we can still think of what a balanced plate should look like,” she said. “So, bring that fast food home and heat up a frozen vegetable. There are dollar bags you can get at the grocery store - throw it in the microwave. Grab some raw baby carrots, some cucumbers, some celery, and try to, at least, balance out that fast food meal with some high-fibrous vegetables for the kids.”
Of course, Hyland admits that most times, families will turn to fast food because they need something quick.
She said one way around this pitfall is to meal-plan your week. That way, you can have a ‘quick’ item, such as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or a slow cooker recipe ready to go, instead of turning to the fast food drive-through.
“Often times, just having a plan can be enough to have you execute it,” Hyland said.
Complete results of the study can be found in Obesity.