Recent studies demonstrate that few children and teens pay attention to the nutritional information, especially calories, listed on the menu when ordering in fast food restaurants. They also significantly underestimate the calories in the foods they order, often by 500 or more calories.
Eating out, for many teens, is about eating what they want with no regard for the effect it has on their weight.
According to the Journal on Obesity, eating fast foods out on a regular basis is part of in the growing problem of obesity in the U.S. Mandatory labeling of calories in foods in restaurants has been proposed as one way to help people make healthier food choices.
New York City was the first city to implement a posting calories requirement in chain restaurants. Now calorie labeling is mandated nationally by the Affordable Care Act. The law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide to post the calories in each food item either on menu boards or printed menus.
Most of the children and teens interviewed in the studies that took place in Boston and in New York City were not aware of how many calories they needed each day for a healthy diet and what foods were the best choices for meeting their daily intake of calories.
The answer is not that children and teens give up the fun of eating out in a fast food restaurant, but rather they need to learn how to eat out and keep food choices in line with their calories for the day.
Occasionally eating out at fast food restaurants as a family can be a way to help young children learn about how to use the calorie labeling to make good meal choices. Ordering based on calories and the nutritional value of each food on the menu will hopefully have carry over value to when they are making those choices on their own, as teens, eating out with friends.
Source:Journal of Obesity