Study Shows One Third of American Kids Eat Fast Food on Any Given Day

Sadly, a typical lunch.
Sadly, a typical lunch. Photo: Garry Gay/Getty Images

This will not thrill Michelle Obama: The CDC just finished crunching the numbers from the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and the data shows that despite repeat warnings about the negative health effects, kids are eating as much fast food as ever. Researchers rounded up 3,000 kids ages 2 to 19 to ask what they’d eaten the previous day, and a third of them said Doritos Locos or McNuggets, or something probably just as unwholesome, because it came from a fast-food chain. According to the report, this age group in total gets 12 percent of its calories from chains.

Researchers weren’t exactly shocked by this finding, which more or less hasn’t budged since the 1990s, but what did surprise them is that the intake of fast food didn’t vary between low-income and more affluent children. Data shows that the poorest third of kids get about 12 percent of calories from fast food, while for the richest third it is actually over 13 percent.

Nor did the CDC find a connection between weight and fast-food consumption. The results, therefore, technically complicate blaming the fast-food industry (and its ads disproportionately targeting minority kids) for the higher child-obesity rates in lower-income communities. One explanation may be that American children all eat the same amount of unhealthy fast food, but the poorer kids can’t compensate as easily by eating nutritious meals at home. Either way, experts agree that the report “opens up more questions for us.”


Study Shows One Third of American Kids Eat Fast Food on Any Given Day