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Kids Developing a Taste for Fast Food too Early

little caucasian boy eating burger, looking down
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Don't get us wrong: Fast food is easy, often delicious and usually cheap, so we can understand when you turn to it for a quick and simple dinner option. Our parents did the same thing, especially when they wanted to reward us after a good game of soccer or job well done at the school's science fair. But it was rarely a regular thing to get something from the golden arches ... until now.

A shocking number of children in the U.S. are overweight, and fast food and poor eating habits have a lot to do with it. A new study, published by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research showed that "60 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds in California are eating fast food at least once a week." And around 10 percent eat it even more—around three times per week! Considering that children in California are, on average, much healthier than those in the rest of the U.S., this is disconcerting news all around. The obesity rate in California is at 10 percent compared to more than double that number nationwide: 25 percent.

Starting to feed children fast food so consistently at such a young age means that they'll develop a taste for it. Ever have a craving for McDonald's french fries? We can usually keep it at bay, but by having fast food play such an important role in a child's daily nutrition, it isn't signaling anything good now, or in the long run.

Researchers say, "Because children get 30 to 50 percent of their daily calories in school, school lunches would be one place to start to improve the children's health." Of course it also falls to the parents, who tend to be the ones shuttling their kids to fast food joints at such a young age. Make a decision to opt for healthy over easy more often.

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