Is Fast Food Slowly Killing Our Kids?

By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC

“Children growing up in North America are at risk of being the first generation in modern memory that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” — Dr. David Katz, Yale University heart expert

The statistics are alarming.

Over 65% of adults in our country are obese or overweight. Childhood obesity has more than TRIPLED over the last 30 years, increasing the child’s risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, sleep apnea, asthma, colon cancer and depression. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) calls childhood obesity a “national epidemic” that affects the lives of more than 9 million children and teens (that’s over 9,000,000 of our next generation!). The facts about our food crisis can be depressing to parents who are trying hard to raise healthy, happy kids. If you look at photos of children just 30 years ago compared to photos of children today, what do you see? Notice how few children were overweight back then.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR CHILDREN?

Why is the richest country in the world facing the most debilitating food-related crisis in the world? What is causing our children to experience obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure at earlier and earlier ages?  How can we be eating more, yet be so malnourished?? What happened over the last 3 decades to impact this degree of poor health? Certainly as a caring parent, you would not choose to inflict these critical health issues on your own child if you knew they could be prevented. Well, you do have a choice in your child’s healthy future, and the outcome is in your hands.

The truth can be hard to accept. American families are heavily influenced by the giant industry that controls our food supply. Many companies in this industry appear to be concerned NOT with the health of our children, but with their own bottom line. If you look back a couple of generations, you will notice that how and what families ate were completely different than today’s average family.

WHO IS PROTECTING OUR KIDS?

It’s up to parents to steer our kids in a healthy direction. We are the ones with the greatest influence over what goes into their growing bodies. We are beginning to understand now that we cannot rely on the food industry to provide the healthiest options for our family. We have the responsibility to make better food choices, and it helps when we start while kids are young. To do this, we have to empower ourselves with knowledge. We have to learn about what we are buying and feeding our kids in restaurants, fast food chains, convenience stores and even our grocery outlets.

THE TASTY BUSINESS OF FOOD

The business of food is driven by WHAT SELLS. Because Americans now spend 50% of their entire food bill on fast food, there is much competition for our eating-out budget. So food suppliers want to know … what draws us to eat one food over another? The entire food industry spends millions of dollars to find out what makes us desire food to ensure we continue coming back for more. They are highly motivated to manipulate our minds and our bodies to crave what they offer. Through extensive testing, food scientists have pinpointed certain TASTES that stimulate our appetite and cue us to EAT MORE. It is that stimulation (rather than actual hunger) that makes us put more food in our mouths even when we are no longer hungry. This data is used when creating new foods and tweaking what’s already on the market. It’s not just fast food chains that use this information. Even pricey restaurants refer to these studies when deciding on menu items, plus convenience foods processed and packaged for our supermarket shelves are in continual “testing” mode as they compete for our taste-addictions (and dollars).

So, what have these scientific tests uncovered? It is this powerful fact, one that is at the bottom of our fast food cravings and resulting ill-health — that sugar, fat and salt makes us eat MORE sugar, fat and salt.* When the “mix” of these 3 tastes is just right, that food is super-stimulating to us, making us want to eat more of it. This is the bottom line to WHY so many people (kids too!) eat without restraint, gorging their body because of obsessive urges and desires that were deliberately intended to be aroused by the manufacturers of the food. Remember that potato chip maker’s question about not being able to eat “just one”?  Now you know the physiological and emotional reason we had to keep on eating.

This is a wake-up call to every parent. If you want to do something to help your child’s state of health, you MUST become conscious about what goes into your food selections. One vital step is eliminating your family’s FAST FOOD habit.

FAST FOOD FACTS

Why do fast foods appeal to parents and children alike?

  1. CONVENIENT — Fast food is available through a quick method like a drive-thru or convenience store.
  2. CHEAP – What is offered is loaded with chemical ingredients that cost way less than real food ingredients.
  3. TASTY – Ingredients are combined into a highly processed, artificial food with a high fat, high calorie and high sodium content. Refer to the stimulating 3-taste mix to understand why fast food “tastes” so compelling.

What are the hidden dangers of fast food that medical research has discovered?

  1. The damage begins early, even though disease may take years to show up.
  2. Fast food “meats” from large cattle feedlots and slaughterhouses are full of antibiotics and hormones that are harmful to growing children and adults.
  3. Fast food is loaded with dangerous additives like trans-fat, high-fructose corn syrup and MSG.
  4. Many ingredients are derived from genetically modified food and contain toxic pesticides.
  5. Even the “healthier” fast food options (salads, chicken, and low-fat items) are full of chemical additives and have little or no nutritional value to add to a growing body.
  6. Fast food lacks nutrients a body requires to maintain itself, let alone thrive.

Studies have also shown that a diet of primarily processed foods can pass illness through your DNA to your descendents – increasing health problems and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.** Could it be that this increase traces back to the foods you (or your parents/grandparents) chose to eat?

FAKE FOOD vs. REAL FOOD – THE OPTIMAL CHOICE FOR KIDS

Sadly, our culture continues to support raising artificial children. The standard American diet is filled with artificial chemicals that we now know are damaging to health. Based on your instinct alone, which do you think would be more health-giving for your child – eating foods that are real and natural, or consuming artificial, lab-created chemical concoctions that are formed and flavored to SEEM like real food?

Perhaps calling fast food what it really is … DEAD food … would make us pause before trading our child’s health for convenience.

There are many additional things to consider when you are arming yourself with information (which I will cover in greater detail in future articles), including trends that expose our children en masse to new, unknown agents that infiltrate their body, particularly:

— Genetically modified foods

— Pesticides

— Artificial additives: flavors, colors, sweeteners and preservatives

In the name of progress, we have moved further and further away from feeding our children what they really need to grow healthy and vibrant, and unfortunately there are no magic supplements or drugs that can take the place of real nutrition. It is up to parents to lead the way by finding sources for locally grown, fresh, whole, natural foods. The positive change you want to see in your children’s well-being starts with YOU.

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 HEALTH TIP  – How to Find Good, Fast Food

Is it possible to combine the convenience-factor we love with healthy eating?

I find many families reaching for fast food when they are in-between events and over-scheduled. Some things our family does while out and about is to always have snacks with us. We carry fresh fruits … bananas, apples, oranges. We carry homemade trail mixes, nuts and seeds. Green smoothies are fast and convenient, and can be easily taken in the car. I also make a batch of homemade fruit leathers. You can have avocado slices, sprinkled with a little sea salt and lemon juice. When my kids were toddlers, they just devoured this! Now I make fresh guacamole with flax seed chips, which is very easy to pack and carry. I also make sweet potato fries which are extremely portable and satisfy any sweet tooth. I slice up a sweet potato, dehydrate it at 118 degrees for 4-6 hours, sprinkle some sea salt and olive oil. You can also bake it in the oven at 300 degrees.

Yes, you have to “think ahead” a little bit and be willing to try different home-prepared, convenient foods out on your kids until you find what they like. I know it’s worth the time, and you will think so, too, as you notice the difference it makes in how your children look and feel!
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RESOURCES

* The End of Overeating – Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, MD (2009 Rodale Inc.)

** Rats on Junk Food Pass Cancer Down the Generations by Dr. Mercola (May 11, 2010) www.mercola.com

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