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Healthy Living

Kids Are Eating Way More Fast Food Than You'd Think -- Or Hope

More than a third of American kids get their daily calories from fast food restaurants.

If you thought that most families reserved fast food for a once-in-a-while or weekend treat, you'd be wrong. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, 34 percent of children aged two to 19 eat fast food on any given day. Perhaps most surprisingly, the analysis revealed that economic status, race and gender have little to do with who's eating the stuff.

Researchers looked at data gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 - 2012, finding that adolescents ate an average of 12.4 percent of their daily calories from fast food.

While fast food habits are commonly associated with less affluent communities, it turns out wealthy kids are just as likely to consume a happy meal. In fact, according to the study, wealthier children ate approximately 13 percent of their calories from fast food, while poorer kids came in at 11.5 percent.

Adolescents who eat fast food consume around 300 more calories more per meal than home-cooked meals would provide. That's particularly distressing when you consider that childhood obesity has quadrupled among adolescents over the past 30 years. Meanwhile, fast food franchises have also expanded, as have their portion sizes.

One thing that particularly vexes public health researchers is the fact that most of us know fast food is unhealthy and eat it anyway. Research shows that there are ways to get kids to adopt healthy eating habits, though bribing is not one of them. Instead, parents should expose their young kids to new and healthy foods all the time, and maybe even consider cooking with their young ones.

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