TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) The obesity epidemic is being fueled still further by a growing trend among kids to eat out and bring take-out food home, University of North Carolina researchers say.
Such foods are high in sugar and calories, and their increasing popularity means youngsters are getting more calories than they need, the researchers noted.
Since 1994, this trend has been growing rapidly and reflects the availability of fast food restaurants and foods prepared in supermarkets and other food stores, the researchers say. In fact, calories eaten away from home increased from 23.4 percent to 33.9 percent between 1977 and 2006.
"We found that kids eat a relatively maintained level of calories at home, but in addition kids also eat an increasing number of calories outside the home," said study author Jennifer Poti, from the university's Gillings School of Global Public Health. "Eating outside the home is actually fueling the increased energy intake for kids."
Poti said much of the foods children eat outside the home comes from prepared meals sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as fast food restaurants. Much of the fast food children eat is actually consumed at home, Poti said. In 2006, almost half of the fast foods children ate were eaten at home, she noted.
Although the reasons for this increase in eating prepared meals isn't known, Poti speculates it's a combination of factors including convenience, cost and time pressures.
This trend is adding to the obesity epidemic, Poti said. "Parents need to be interested in both the food source and location where it is eaten, which both significantly influence energy intake," she said.
The report is published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
For the study, Poti's team collected data on 29,217 children aged 2 to 18. They had taken
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