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How close do you live to fast food?

How close do you live to fast food?

A recent study published in the journal Obesity presents some alarming findings.

Of the New York City children between 5 and 18 years old who lived within a half block of a fast food restaurant, 38% were overweight and 20% were obese. This is concerning, but not surprising.

Children eat what is available to them, so it makes sense that those who live within a close proximity to fast food or convenience stores choose to eat junk food often.

And while healthier options may be available, eating healthy isn’t usually a top priority for children, which is why education is so important.

I think it would be a great idea to use these findings to support policies that keep fast food and convenience stores farther from schools and other locations associated with children.

Here are ways you can help your kids make healthier food choices amidst tempting, nearby fast food.

  • Make healthy eating fun by having tasty, healthy snacks at home. Keep snacks easy to grab by keeping them at children’s eye level or by keeping a bowl or fruit on the counter.
  • Involve your kids in meal and snack prep to help pique their interest. Meal times are a great time to promote healthy eating habits. Have them pick out new foods to try.
  • Don’t make junk easily accessible by keeping it in the house – but don’t ban it, either! Banning or bargaining with junk food will only increase its appeal. Banning a food entirely can actually cause a child to overindulge when they do have access to it.
  • Make less healthy foods something you eat occasionally when you’re away from home. Teach moderation and that it’s OK to eat small amounts of these foods from time to time, while at a special occasion, birthday party or at a friend’s house.
  • Be a good role model! If you want your child to eat healthy food, make sure you are eating healthy food!

Megan Kochanek is a pediatric dietitian at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

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Megan Kochanek

Megan Kochanek is a pediatric dietitian at Advocate Children's Hospital.