Like the weather report from George Carlin’s hippy dippy weatherman Al Sleet, some information you run across just looks you right in the eye and says, “I am the most obvious piece of information you could ever imagine hearing today.” For example: evolution. But for today, that information is coming from Lisa M. Powell and Binh T. Nguyen, professors from the University of Chicago’s School of Public Health and Department of Economics, respectively. Their 2003-2008 data, pooled from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, pulls the metaphorical curtain back, uncovering the mind-shattering information that children who have a meal at any kind of restaurant end up eating and drinking crappier food than they would at home, and more of it.
Understand that my mocking tone is in no way judgmental of Powell and Nguyen’s efforts, nor to say that the information they gleaned is at all without a necessary use. The study, published online by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, draws a bold circle around something we all knew was a frightening problem to begin with: Stay-Puft Marshmallow Children. Taking soda machines away from schools is a great lean forward in the right direction, but the major inlets for calorie consumption will always be fast food joints, followed by traditional restaurants. I don’t think there’s anything in there about the moronic choices to take playgrounds away from some fast food places, but that isn’t helping.
The survey included information from 4,717 children aged 2-11, as well as 4,699 adolescents aged 12-19, from all different walks of life. The results showed teens ate an extra 309 calories of fast food, and 267 calories more at restaurants, versus a night of food and drinks at home. Similarly, the younger children ate 126 more calories of fast food, and 160 more at restaurants. Interesting to notice the percentage differences there. And it’s not more of any good calories, either. It’s all your saturated fats and sugars, and the youths drank twice as much soda as they did at home, and teens drank less milk when meals were out of the house.
Another major (obvious) point noted was that low-income families ate out more than higher-income children, and like the paper, I’ll avoid pontificating over why that is, as I drink a beer from a nine-dollar six pack. (That’s not to prove I’m high-income, which I’m not, but to prove that I’m stupid for considering beer a priority, which I do.) It is pointed out that advertising and an abundance of cheap food places in low-income areas are probable causes. If only liquor stores and auto body shops got Michelin stars.
The outcome here is a finger-wagging at most restaurants for giving us a menu filled with amazing fatty food, rather than just a few high-calorie options set against a back drop of veggie-laden health foods. Health food is tasty too, and not a lot of kids know that because their parents don’t think dumping shit out of a can consists of creating a lifelong association with taste. Get fried foods off of kids’ menus. Stock drink stations with juice and smoothie machines. And finally, only put two scoops of ice cream onto my fudge-drizzled peanut butter cookie dough and pecan brownie pie. I’m going to need a box.