MONDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Whether at fast food places or full-service restaurants, kids who eat out are likely to consume more calories, sugar, fat and salt, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago report.
They also noted that kids are eating out more, particularly in fast-food restaurants, which has helped drive the obesity epidemic among children and teens.
"Every day, about 40 percent of U.S. children eat at these restaurants," said lead researcher Lisa Powell, director of the university's Health Policy Center of the Institute for Health Research and Policy.
"We need policies that promote healthier food choices, rather than one that promotes unhealthy food choices," she added.
"We also need to change the environment in the restaurant so that there won't be harmful effects on diet," Powell said. This would include not offering free refills on soda and increasing healthier food choices, she explained.
The report was published in the Nov. 5 online edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
For the study, Powell and her colleague, Binh Nguyen, collected data on restaurant eating among more than 4,000 children between the ages of 2 and 11 and almost 4,700 teens between the ages of 12 and 19, who took part in the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
In particular, they looked at the total energy intake -- called kilocalories, which is similar to total calories -- of sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas.
When children eat in fast-food restaurants, their daily energy intake goes up 126 kilocalories, and for teens, it increases by 309 kilocalories, Powell and Nguyen found.
In full-service restaurants, daily energy intake increased 160 kilocalories for kids and 267 kilocalories for teens, they added.
In addition, eating out meant getting 13 percent more sugar, 22 p
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