It's not secret that children and fast food aren't the healthiest combination. Unfortunately many kids are introduced to fast food at a young age and continue to consume it as they grow up. Obesity is on the rise in children, which has been leading to a variety of health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea.  These are problems that no child should have to suffer from, and much of the problem could be reduced by limiting fast food.  So, why is fast food becoming so popular in children, and what can you do to keep your kids from being negatively affected by it?  Read on to learn more.

THE PROBLEM

Increasing frequency of children consuming fast food

Most foods, including fast foods, can be eaten in moderation. However, kids are eating fast food more and more often.  These days, parents have very busy lives and may decide to pick their children up a happy meal instead of cooking a meal at home.  Of course, this is not the case for all families but this habit is a trend in the U.S.  It wouldn’t be such a problem if kids received nutritious meals from the restaurants, but most of the time they’re ordering items like double cheeseburgers, French fries and milkshakes.

Kids are getting the wrong message about nutrition

Many fast food chains give kids the wrong message in their advertisements.  Some try to promote healthy eating habits to get families to come to the restaurant.  However, people who do not specify what they want automatically get the unhealthy option (ex. If you don’t ask for apple slices instead of fries, you will get fries).  Restaurants use cartoons like Ronald McDonald to encourage children to want to go there, increasing their consumption of unhealthy food.

Complete availability of fast food for children

It’s no secret that fast food is readily available for almost everyone.  Most families live relatively close to a fast food restaurant and enjoy taking advantage of the dollar menu.  Some parents make fast food more available to their kids by using it as a reward for good behavior.  This habit should either be avoided or fixed.

THE SOLUTION

If you think your child needs to reduce his/her consumption of fast food, you have to work with them and be part of the solution.  Eating fast food may already be a habit for them, and possibly you, and it will take time and effort to eliminate the dependence on fast food. Here are some tips to moving your children away from the fast food craze:

•    Be a good role model and eat healthy, home cooked food with your children. This can be hard with busy lifestyles. Consider the use of a crock pot, food can cook all day and be ready to serve when your family walks in the door.

•    Never eat fast food in front of your children and expect them to abstain from it. 

•    Moderation is the key! Offer fast food as an occasional indulgence. A monthly trip to McDonalds for chicken nuggets and a shake can be a special treat to look forward to.

•    Don’t go commando and completely restrict fast food from your child’s diet indefinitely, this could cause binge eating in the future when you’re not around. Again, moderation is the key.

•    Limit your child’s time in front of the TV and encourage them to go outside and be active; this will reduce the amount of fast food advertisements your child sees. 

•    If you do go out to eat and want something fast, opt for healthier choices such as sub sandwiches, salads and leaner meats such as chicken, always choose water over soda and never add extra salt. Kids can still enjoy fast food even if it's not the most unhealthy option on the menu.

The actual goal of healthy eating isn’t completely eliminating fast food, the goal is helping children develop healthy eating habits to utilize throughout their entire lives. Follow the above tips and your children will grow up to have a healthy relationship with fast food.