How Bad is Fast Food…Really?

By Lisa Daniel

Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist


For moderately active girls between the ages of 9 and 13, the estimated daily calorie requirement is 1,600 to 2,000.  For boys of the same age this range is 1,800 to 2,200.  For sedentary children, use the lower number in each case.  (Source: Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 6th ed. USDA and HHS, 2005).


So let's talk about fast food.  I don't want to exaggerate, so let's just go with a regular hamburger, medium Coke, and medium fries from McDonald's.  That's 820 calories.  Okay, so let's go bigger and have a cheeseburger, large Coke, large fries.  That's about 1,140 calories.  Let's go to Burger King instead and have a chicken whopper, medium fries, medium Coke.  1,130 calories.  KFC for a two piece dark meat with potato wedges and a medium Pepsi.  That's 940 calories.  How about two slices of pizza and a coke?  About 800 calories (if they stop at two slices…)


The point here is that even a ''modest'' meal at a fast food joint can load your child up with 50% - 60% of the calories they need for the entire day.  Consistently going over these recommended calorie levels means your child will gain weight.  Staying within the ideal range means your child will maintain his or her weight.  To lose weight, it's important to find healthy choices that keep them slightly below these calorie levels.


There are healthy choices at some fast food restaurants - but don't be fooled by labels or marketing.  Do your research - check the nutrition chart on-line (members can find links to many of these charts in the member section).  Chicken sandwiches, even the grilled ones, aren't always a healthy choice (I found one with 570 calories - and that was grilled chicken, not fried).  What about that fruit & yogurt parfait?  More calories than a ''small'' Coke.  That taco salad?  630 calories.  Just because it sounds healthy doesn't mean that it is.  The words ''fruit'' and ''salad'' and ''chicken'' may sound low calorie, but often they are prepared in ways that they pack on the calories.


If your child is overweight, it's best to avoid fast food - it's that simple.  Time constraints may make it tough, but the health of your child must take precedence over busy schedules.  There are plenty of healthy meals that don't take much time to prepare, and you don't have to be an award winning chef to prepare them.  Most of our kids on the program lose weight while eating, for example, oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, wraps or pitas for lunch, and spaghetti or grilled cheese for dinner.  If you are not a member, join today and we will build a custom meal plan that's right for your child - and easy to prepare.


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