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Unhappy meals? Majority of very young children in California eat fast food at least once a week
Date:11/26/2013

A surprisingly large percentage of very young children in California, including 70 percent of Latino children, eat fast food regularly, according to a new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study found that 60 percent of all children between the ages of 2 and 5 had eaten fast food at least once in the previous week.

The majority of the state's young children also do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, with only 57 percent of parents reporting that their child ate at least five fruit and vegetable servings the previous day.

"A weekly happy meal is an unhappy solution, especially for toddlers," said Susan Holtby, the study's lead author and a senior researcher at the Public Health Institute. "Hard-working, busy parents need support to make healthy food selections for their kids."

The new study used data from several cycles of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to examine dietary behaviors of very young children, including their consumption of fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruits and vegetables, and to gauge how much influence parents have over what their children eat.

The study's authors found that in both 2007 and 2009, about two-thirds of children between the ages of 2 and 5 ate at least one fast food meal during the previous week, and 29 percent ate two or more. About 10 percent of children in this age group ate three or more fast food meals the previous week.

Although this and previous studies by the center have noted a general decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among children in California, that positive trend is reversed when linked to fast food. Specifically, the study's authors found that children who ate two to three fast-food meals a week were much more likely to drink soda than those who ate less fast food.

"Fast food combined with drinking soda at such a young age can set these kids up for obesity-related
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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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