I didn't grow up in a fast food family. Every once in a while, there was a stop for
McDonald's or Burger King during long and tiresome family road trips. Other than that, we ate at home. The fact
that we lived in suburbia and didn't have a fast food chain around every
corner might have played a role. But my mom was big on the home-cooked
meal. And I thank her for it.
Four decades later, I wouldn't take my kids to a fast food
restaurant if you paid me to do so. During a recent trip, when our hotel, quite literally, couldn't serve all of
the people staying there, my husband ran off to a local Denny's in an act of
desperation. The kids were starving and
food allergies make it difficult to find food in a pinch. Their chicken tenders were deemed
"safe." The smell of it alone turned my
stomach when I returned to the room, and my daughter was less than impressed.
A necessary quick fix? Yes. One I'm inclined to repeat? No
Parents hear a lot about the connection between fast food
and childhood obesity. Many respond to
this with some version of, "Everything in moderation." But what is moderation when it comes to fast
food consumption? Where do you draw the
If the rates of childhood obesity aren't enough to scare
parents away from a life of fast food, perhaps this new development is: a recent nationwide study published in the
Pediatrics shows that frequent fast food consumption may slow a child's
A team of researchers out of Ohio State University examined
the data of a study of over 11,000 students. Results showed
that the more frequently students reported eating fast food in 5th grade, the
lower their academic growth in reading, math and science in 8th grade. In fact, students
who ate the most fast food showed test score gains that were 20 percent lower
than those who didn't eat any.
How much is considered too much? Per this study, children who ate fast food
four to six times a week showed significantly lower gains in all areas compared to
children who did not eat any. But children
who ate fast food just one to three times per week only showed lower academic gains in
Still, I have to wonder if this quick fix for food is worth
it in the long run.
Learn about healthy eating together. Shop together. Cook together. Talk about changes in energy, focus, and happiness.
It's no big secret that school is more intense than it once
was. Kids are learning at a faster pace
across the board and expectations are high. Research shows that children perform better when they are well nourished with healthy
Healthy eating leads to better academic performance, better memory, better focus/alertness and better health (which translates to fewer
sick days). It's important to empower
kids to learn about the connections between healthy eating and increased energy
and alertness. When kids learn to take
control of their eating patterns, they are more likely to make positive
Also, aim for these three healthy eating goals:
Believe me, I know, school mornings can be busy. One minute you're dragging yourself out of
bed and the next you're running to the car with one shoe on. Slow down and make time for breakfast anyway.
Skipping breakfast, or eating an unhealthy breakfast on the
fly, can negatively impact the school day for your child. Do as much prep as you can in advance to make
sure that your child gets a meal (and the time to eat it) filled with protein,
fruit and energy.
Kids don't get a lot of time to eat their snacks during the
school day, so it's important to find healthy snacks that they can eat quickly
and will help reenergize them after a morning of learning. Fruits and string cheese are always good
choices, but home-baked treats high in protein, or hardboiled eggs, are also
When families commit to ditching the junk food and eating
healthy as a family, kids are more likely to embrace healthier eating. Learn about healthy eating together. Shop together. Cook together. Talk about changes in energy, focus and
When kids learn to make the connections between healthier
eating and a happier lifestyle (less academic stress certainly makes for
happier kids), they learn to turn down junk food for the
quick hunger fix.