Takeout meals linked to health concerns for children

Fast-food is generally not known for healthy qualities.

But recent research is showing just how much impact takeout meals can have on the health of our children.

The study looked at data on 1,948 children between the ages of 9-10.

Researchers found that eating takeout meals more than once a week was associated with higher intakes of fat energy, saturated fat, and lower intake of protein and micronutrients.

Children who reported consuming high amounts of takeout food also had higher levels of LDL cholesterol and a higher fat mass index.

Jennifer Hyland, RD of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the study, but said not only do takeout meals have higher amounts of unhealthy ingredients, they are often lacking in the healthy components that growing children need.

“Not only do these meals have too much of certain energy and fat contents, but they don’t have adequate vitamins and minerals,” she said. “They don’t have the fiber, micronutrients or the protein that these kids need.”

Hyland admits that it’s unrealistic to expect a family to never eat a takeout meal, but, she said doing so sparingly is the way to go.

When parents find themselves in a position where takeout is the only option, she said it’s best to focus on making healthier choices at the counter.

For hamburger meals, instead of going for the french fries on the side, Hyland recommends looking for a side salad or perhaps even swap the burger for grilled chicken.

If there isn’t a vegetable option, try to get the kids to eat a vegetable when they get home for a snack later on in the day.

And by asking for the dipping sauce or condiments on the side, parents can control how much the kids are choosing and decrease the intake of excessive fat and sugar.

Hyland said it’s not about teaching kids that takeout meals are horrible and we should never have them, but rather that they are not an everyday choice for a healthy lifestyle.

“We want to instill healthy life-long behaviors in these children,” she said. “If you’re teaching your kids that you’re just going to get a quick and easy takeout meal every day – that’s what they’re going to expect as they get older and then when they’re teenagers and they’re making their own decisions, unfortunately, that’s what they’re going to decide.”

Hyland said the more we can cook at home, or make healthier choices when getting takeout, children will be more likely to develop those habits for life.

Complete results of the study can be found in BMJ.