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Yui Oshima
Professor Dozier
14 May 2014
Fast Food -- An Enemy of the Children
Since the 1950s, fast food has grown into a main eating
habit of children in the United States. Consumption of fast food
by children had increased a staggering five-fold from 2% of
total energy in the late 1970s to 10% of total energy in the
mid-1990s (Bowman). Our society has grown fast and has made
changes for convenience, and the fast food industry is one of
the symbols of society. But fast food has changed the American
diet a lot and has caused serious problems for Americans,
especially children. The fast food industry has negatively
changed Americas eating habits and has had a harmful effect on
Fast food has negatively affected children physically. As
written in a 2004 study by Pediatrics, children who ate fast
food were more likely to consume a higher amount of calories,
fat, carbohydrates and added sugars in one fast food meal. They
were also less likely to consume as much fiber, milk, fruits and
vegetables as children who did not eat fast food (Fleck). Once
children begin to eat fast food, they prefer that over the
healthier foods. They would rather eat fast food, which makes
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them obese. Eating fast food increases the risk of obesity. Also,
children that eat too much fast food are at a high risk of
developing chronic illnesses. According to The Prevention
Institute, experts blame junk food for the rising rates of
diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Increasing rates of
chronic illness affect children who regularly consume junk food.
Also, The Center for Food Safety pointed out that children are
also more likely to develop high cholesterol and heart disease
later in life (Fleck). Fast food sometimes affects children in
their future. Children cannot control their diet by themselves,
so their parents have to help them. It means that parents should
not take their children to fast food restaurants too often. In
addition, overweight kids often do not like to exercise. Ellen
Greenlaw points out that a 2006 University of Florida study of
100 children found that bullying is a major reason why
overweight kids don't exercise. Overweight children are bullied
more than other kids, and they tend to avoid situations where
they have been picked on before, such as gym classes or sports
(par.2). So, parents have to control their diet and give them an
opportunity to exercise before they become overweight. Fast food
is a bad influence, not only on childrens physical health but
also on their mental development.
Fast food is a bad influence on childrens mental
development. According to Kids Health Club Magazine, junk food
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can affect a childs physical development in detrimental ways,
including unhealthy weight gain, which can result in self-esteem
problems. Low self-esteem can lead to consequences like
depression (Fleck). Some children may not gain weight easily,
and they may not be overweight because of fast food; however,
they cannot avoid these mental problems. Besides, the lack of
omega 3 fatty acids in fast foods can create a mental state that
includes anxiety along with depression. It's not just what fast
food lacks that can cause anxiety; however, fast food is high in
refined carbohydrates, which can lead to blood sugar
fluctuations. If the blood sugar dips into hypoglycemic levels,
people can experience anxiety, trembling, confusion and fatigue
(Wile). These symptoms will affect childrens school life. They
cannot concentrate on studying in such an unstable condition.
Furthermore, eating fast food in fast food restaurants
interferes with time spent with families, and it plays an
important role in childrens mental growth. Mealtime is quality
time for families to share stories and where parents can observe
their children or notice any subtle changes. Children also feel
safe and have peace of mind, which is so essential for their
mental growth. Besides, it is also quality time to cook together
because parents can teach their children while sharing good
family times. However, if parents just buy fast food, there is
little chance to sit around a table and eat meals together with
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family. Also, they will lose the time to teach children how to
cook. It is important to know how to cook because the skill will
help children to become independent as they grow older. So, fast
food has a negative impact on childrens development. Even
though fast food has many ill effects on children, there are
many opportunities for children to eat fast food.
An increase of opportunities for children to eat fast foods
is available. School cafeterias have many fast food selections.
Children have little choice but to eat lunch at school
cafeterias. According to Schlosser, the fast food chains now
promote their food by selling school lunches, accepting a lower
profit margin in order to create brand loyalty. The American
School Food Service Association estimates that about 30 percent
of public high schools in the United States offer branded fast
food (56). There is business between fast food chains and
schools. The fast food chains can sell many of their products,
so schools do not need to make a lot of food to fill the
counters at cafeterias. But it means that schools force children
to eat fast food. Moreover, restaurants target children for fast
foods by offering special meals, toys or making play areas
available. Schlosser notes that the McDonalds Corporation now
operates more than eight thousand playgrounds at its restaurants
in the United States. Burger King has more than two thousand.
Every month about 90 percent of American children between the
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ages of three and nine visit a McDonalds (47). By targeting
children, fast food restaurants automatically target their
parents or grandparents as well. The fast food industry also
spends a lot of money on advertising. Schlosser states that the
growth in childrens advertising has been driven by efforts to
increase not just current, but also future, consumption (43).
Childhood memories influence their lifestyle in the future. If
children eat fast food on a regular basis, they will take their
children to fast food restaurants when they have families; this
is the advertising strategy called cradle-to-grave. As long as
fast food restaurants focus on children as their target, they
will continue to consume it, not only now but also in the
Fast food always attracts children, even though it causes
many problems - obesity, chronic illness, self-esteem,
depression and so on. Fast food is just like the childrens
enemy, and their parents have to be defenders of the enemy by
controlling childrens diets. The fast food industry is one of
Americas big businesses, so it is difficult to shut them out
from American life. But one way parents can stay away from fast
food is by keeping it out of the house. They can cook healthy
meals and avoid fast foods. Also, they can make healthy snacks
such as fruits, vegetables or whole-grain crackers available, so
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children can reach for them when they get hungry. Only parents
can prevent children from this strong enemy.
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Works cited
Bowman, Shanthy A, et al. "Effects Of Fast-Food Consumption On
Energy Intake And Diet Quality Among Children In A National
Household Survey." Pediatrics 113.1 Part 1 (2004): 112-118.
CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
Fleck, Alissa. How Junk Food Affects Children. SFGate. Hearst
Communications Inc, 2004. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
Greenlaw, Ellen. Exercise Tips for Overweight Kids. Raising
fit kids: Healthy Nutrition, Exercise, and Weight. WebMD,
14 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 May. 2014.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food NATION. New York: HARPER PERENNIAL,
2002. Print.
Wile, Elise. Mental Effects of a Fast Food Diet.
LIVESTRONG.COM. Demand Media, Inc, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 14
May. 2014.