Children and adolescents consume more calories and soda and have poorer nutrient-intake on days they eat at either fast-food or full-service restaurants, as compared to days they eat meals at — or from — home.
A new study, by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and published online by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, is the first to look separately at fast-food and full-service restaurants. The researchers examined calorie intake, diet quality, and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly soda, on days when youngsters ate out as compared to days they did not. They used data from the three waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years between 2003 and 2008, which included 4,717 children ages 2 to 11 and 4,699 adolescents ages 12 to 19.
At restaurants, the researchers found, youths consumed higher amounts of sugar, total fat, saturated fat and sodium.
Take-out fared better in one regard — the researchers found adolescents consumed twice as much soda when eating in the restaurant, as compared to when they ate the restaurant food at home.
“We attribute that to the free refills,” says Lisa Powell, professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health and lead author of the study.