Okay, parents, time to stop blaming your kid for those frequent visits to fast food restaurants. Sure, those kids” meals that come in nifty little packages and include toys are pretty enticing, not to mention the salty french fries and cheesy burgers. But a recent study suggests it”s actually your habits that predict how often your kid eats at fast food and other restaurants.
In the context of today”s food culture, more meals are eaten outside the home, on the go, choosing convenience first. This study examined 312 families to see which factors were associated with kid”s restaurant patronage. The results were pretty interesting:
- Father knows best? If Dad wants to eat out, kids eat out more; if Dad values family dinners, kids spend less time in fast food restaurants.
- We”re driving our kids to obesity. The more time kids spend in the car, the more likely they are to eat at a restaurant, fast food or otherwise.
- Mom-in-Chief? Kids of career-minded moms tended to spend more time in fast food restaurants.
We all know that childhood obesity is at a crisis point in the U.S. Restaurants, while convenient, certainly aren”t helping matters with their high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium offerings. Although there is a counter-movement underway in the form of the Let”s Move! campaign and efforts by celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and the pioneering Alice Waters, your kid needs you to make your family”s diet and health a priority.
Easier said than done? Yes, you”re very busy and yes, it does take some dedication. But here are some quick tips to get you (and your family) started on the road to a healthy diet:
- Keep healthy, portable options on hand. If you need to spend a lot of time out and about, pack low-fat string cheese, almonds, whole wheat crackers and a piece of fruit to keep your kid sated and happy while he tags along.
- Cook in advance. Too tired to cook when you get home? Find recipes that can be made in advance and then just re-heated. Or, do some prep work in advance so the meal is easy to throw together. A little weekend planning can go a long way to getting a healthy and wholesome dinner on the table.
- Investigate school lunches. Is your kids” school serving junk food in the cafeteria or vending machines? If so, you might want to have your kids brown bag it. See above tips for working this into your routine.
- Kids can chip-in. Let them have a role in menu planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation as appropriate.
- Eat together as a family at least once per week. It doesn”t have to be dinner – any meal of the day is a great time to reconnect with your family.
- Do your homework. If you just can”t give up the fast food, check out your favorite restaurant”s websites to find the healthiest options.