Study: U.S. Perfects Convenient Way to Make Kids Fat

Discussion
Nov 15, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A new study says that American kids are getting way too much starch, sodium, sugar and fat because they are being fed foods that score high on the convenience meter but low on nutrition.


The research looked at the eating habits of 621 children and found 20 percent ate out at least four times a week. This group of children had higher blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels and worse blood sugar metabolism.


The leader of the study, Karen Olson, executive director of the Cardiovascular Research and Education Foundation in Wausau, Wisc., said, “We are seeing younger and younger patients with more aggressive cardiovascular disease, and we realized we needed to take a closer look at our young people to see when risk factors emerge and why.”


“We’re concerned because we know that children who have cardiovascular risks grow up to be adults who have these risks,” she added.


It also appears that children who go out to eat frequently are being fed less nutritious foods at home more often than those with better nutritional habits.


“In a 21-meal week, eating out four times shouldn’t create the high-sugar, high-sodium, high-fat intake that we saw,” said Ms. Olson. “We think it’s not just the eating out but the way these children are eating all the time, with lots of frozen pizzas and packaged macaroni and cheese on the days they eat at home.”


Moderator’s Comment: What do this study’s findings mean for food manufacturers, restaurants and retailers? Do companies need to develop and begin selling
items to account for consumers’ seeming lack of personal responsibility when it comes to eating the right foods and limiting those that have lower nutritional value?


George Anderson – Moderator

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17 Comments on "Study: U.S. Perfects Convenient Way to Make Kids Fat"


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Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Even though my family are the worst possible offenders in this regard — we haven’t eaten a home-cooked meal in months — it’s solely our fault and responsibility. How can we blame manufacturers and retailers for the unwise choices that we are making?

The blame rests solely on us (and other parents like us) for our willingness to live with the tradeoffs that we’ve implicitly agreed to….

Peter Stowell
Guest
Peter Stowell
15 years 3 months ago

As a product demonstrator, I hear from customers all the time about the lack of healthy choices from American food manufacturers. At a Wal-Mart recently, a customer asked me to pick out the only healthy product from the hundreds on the Cookie/Cracker shelf. It was Nabisco Fat-Free Saltines. All the others were loaded with salt, sugar, fat, trans-fats, and cholesterol. When healthier foods are made, shoppers will buy them. Problem is, the above ingredients are addictive.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
There is a real attempt here to not only create more intensely socialistic government intrusion, as well as a whole separate industry. In fact, the industry is forming on both sides of the obesity issue: Those who are comfortable with it, and those who condemn those who are and are uncomfortable with what others are doing rather than minding themselves. (That was a mouthful…pun intended.) I call this selective personal responsibility. The calls and condemnation of obesity come mostly from an area of folks that have maintained very selective responsibility. The “I know what is good for you” folks. Or call them the “Do as I say, not as I do” folks. The same that would call for extreme rights in some areas of health and personal issues are ready to take away other’s rights because “they know better.” It’s really all about doing the right thing on all sides. But, that’s not easy. Nevertheless, it’s a choice. We can choose responsibility or we can choose a society that will soon ‘nanny’ us to death… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 3 months ago

Oh, give us a home where many calories roam

And fast foods can be enjoyed without atone.

They make us real fat, there’s no doubt about that

But from our vantage point we don’t see our prat.

“We’re not to blame,” we say, and cast upon others,

Suppliers, our kids, sisters, even our brothers.

As sage Peter Fader said, “It’s solely our fault,”

So stop making others target of our assault.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 3 months ago
How typical of us to look to outside entities to create discipline in our families. “Kids screaming in the back seat?” Never happened when growing up with two siblings and never happened while raising our two kids. “The kids won’t eat it?” Again, never had any experience with that while growing up on a balanced diet and providing one for our own kids. “No time to have balanced meals at home because of various activities?” My siblings and I and, later, our kids played and participated in everything, yet we nearly always had balanced meals at home. “I (we) don’t cook?” No experience with that, either. Seems like a basic life skill – like balancing a checkbook. Both of our (early 20s) children cook in their apartments, cook well, and are fit and thin. My parents (both of whom worked full time) taught us the difference between reasons and excuses, and our kids tell me that we did the same for them (thanks, Kids). The comments listed above in quotes are excuses. Here in California,… Read more »
Dennis Smith
Guest
Dennis Smith
15 years 3 months ago
Personal responsibility can not be the issue when hardly anyone understands the science of eating healthy. Much of that scientific understanding is new and available to those who seek it out, but most not only don’t but they don’t know where to look for it. Too many dumbed down Americans depend on oversimplified labels (“organic,” “all natural”) for guidance, and then are frustrated when results are not forthcoming. This month and once last year Discover Magazine ran major articles on the so called “syndrome X” — high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, reduced insulin sensitivity. But who reads such stuff? Very few. Regardless of who should be responsible, there is a major opportunity here for a new type of healthy fast food industry. One that replaces unhealthy wheat, potatoes and rice products (high glycemic, pro-inflammatory foods) with healthy foods such as barley, buckwheat, beans, and oats, and then uses flavorful, spectacularly antioxidant spices to make them taste good. These healthful staples are extremely inexpensive, making them ideal for fast food. If the producer of… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
I’m as strong an advocate of personal responsibility as the rest of you guys but I strongly disagree that the only responsibility a business has (either manufacturer or retailer) is to its shareholders. That is one of the biggest cop-outs going at the moment. Along with name calling – nyah, nyah, food police, nyah, nyah, nanny state. Give us all a break and grow up. Face the fact that SOCIETY is made up of individuals and organisations and there really is no excuse for making excuses or piling on the pressure or convincing people that you are responding to their demands for convenience when what is really going on is a whole load of bullying. People are busy because they choose to be; they could eat well if they chose to and if it was fast, easy and convenient. But they/we are constantly told that we cannot cope with food preparation and we deserve (as L’Oreal so ubiquitously puts it) to take short cuts. Let’s try encouraging personal responsibility rather than increasing the ad spend… Read more »
Randy Kosloski
Guest
Randy Kosloski
15 years 3 months ago

Consumers “vote” with their dollars. Until they decide it is time to change, it will not happen. That said, I believe making healthier packaged foods is in everyone’s best interest (but only if it tastes as good and is just as cheap).

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
Sorry… I’m not buying this “wait until the consumer demands it” reasoning. I’m in agreement that government mandates would be the wrong way to go, because, ultimately, companies are much better at figuring these things out on their own. However, when I see food manufacturers and retailers ignoring the need for healthier food options, I can’t help think of the current state of the U.S. auto industry. Having run with the ravenous demand for SUVs for the last decade, automakers are now desperately trying to play catch-up on the development of hybrid vehicles. Consumers are shaking their heads and saying, “How could the have NOT seen this coming?” Now their only option is to buy the technology from Toyota. For the food industry, the writing has been on the wall for about 5 years now. They need to get out ahead of the healthy food trend and drive the market in the direction it obviously needs to go. Why “need”? Because it’s going to result in a more robust, healthy food industry if consumers can… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

In any business, profit is made by taking advantage of a lack of knowledge and personal responsibility. People love to indulge themselves in the pleasures this world has to offer. Food, drink, narcotics, fast cars, etc. Let the laws of supply and demand dictate what food companies sell. Times are changing and, as demand changes, so will the supply.

Mitch Kristofferson
Guest
Mitch Kristofferson
15 years 3 months ago

Personal observation, not data, suggests to me that diet and health are becoming another example of Well Curves replacing Bell Curves in our society. I see more obese people today than I ever did as a kid, but I also see more ultra-fit types as well (could be a California thing). The latter, though extreme, clearly find enough of the healthy food and exercise opportunities available to them. Shame on the rest of us for not finding the same. This is not a food industry issue. The industry will respond with lightning speed if consumers make different choices with their wallets.

Bradley Cuthbert
Guest
Bradley Cuthbert
15 years 3 months ago
I have to agree with everyone’s sentiment here — even if we wanted to, the food industry could not stop people from eating the way they do. As long as we are time-starved (and that trend will probably never reverse itself, instead only growing more demanding every year), convenience is going to win out over other considerations at most mealtimes. And that is the crux of the problem — most consumers do not understand that eating poorly at 20-25% of meals is enough to create a dietary imbalance; heavy on saturated fats, sugars and other “empty calories.” And frankly, most of us don’t have the discipline to enforce a healthy eating regime any more often than that, especially if it comes at the expense of convenience when the kids are screaming in the back seat and we’re hustling across town from soccer to piano lessons and everyone’s hungry, with no time to stop at home. Even if everyone would cook great, nutritionally-balanced meals at home at all other times, we’ve conditioned our kids to love… Read more »
Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 3 months ago
This and similar studies mean that the food industry, or at least individual companies within the industry, must develop strategies to respond to the increasing attention focused on the link between health and diet, and then explain it to shoppers. Doing this won’t guarantee success, but doing nothing is the same as putting a “kick-me” sign on our backs. Fault isn’t the issue; it’s about companies behaving responsibly in reaction to the growing public angst about weight control and health issues. Let’s face it: few companies have stepped up with major visible responses. General Mills and Pepsico are two exceptions on the manufacturing side, and on the retail side Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ukrop’s, and Hy-Vee are some of the retailers that come to mind who have made strategic commitments in this area. The new 2005 FMI/Prevention Magazine Shopping for Health study identifies opportunities to respond by emphasizing their commitment to organics, by helping mothers improve the diets and health of their children, and by focusing on other shopper needs related to the connection between… Read more »
Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
15 years 3 months ago

This is certainly a reflection of the fast-paced, on-demand lifestyle Americans have become accustomed to. When it comes to accountability, companies have a responsibility to themselves and their shareholders. They have a responsibility to simply make a profit. Companies have been and will continue to react to the high demand for convenience related food products, most of which, unfortunately, are unhealthy items. If consumers had personal responsibility when it comes to eating the right foods, companies would not be developing and selling as many low nutritional value products as they currently are. Companies respond to the consumers’ demands.

There still is a measurable demand for healthy food, and quick and full serve restaurants would be smart to offer a combination of both. Some are currently offering these options but they certainly do not have the responsibility to do so. It is a consumer driven world and currently the consumer is choosing convenience and dismissing the health related consequences.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Smart companies already develop healthier foods that have great taste and texture. Food chemistry is advancing all the time. The basic tastes and textures kids like is no mystery: salty, sweet, crunchy, greasy, etc. What they don’t like is also clear: certain odors (fishy, cabbage, etc.), textures (mushy), tastes (bitter, tart). When the better foods are developed, they are marketed like other successful products. Although “unhealthy” food sales are very strong, it’s clear that “healthy” product sales are strong, too (organics, Newman’s Own salads at McDonald’s, etc.) As it gets more and more stylish to eat healthy, more and more people will do it.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The food police will disagree, but this has to come from society, not the manufacturer. What are you going to do, outlaw cookies and ice cream? No, they should be allowed. Some people have the common sense to eat them in moderation. How much are we going to allow government to step into our lives, and when do we begin to take personal responsibility? Weaning people from bad but pleasurable habits takes a lot of time. Look how long it took for the proven unhealthiness of smoking to finally sink in, and for the number of smokers to start dropping. It could well be yet another 10 years for the market to opt en masse for more healthy items, via self-selection. That’s the only way I see it happening.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Rick, I see your point. The demand for hybrid vehicles is a good example. Heck, just try to find a hybrid Toyota on the lot. They are not there. But the real demand was caused by rising fuel prices. And now most people have no access to a hybrid vehicle anyway. I tried to buy a hybrid Toyota and was simply told “no” by the dealer.

But when it comes to healthy food, just about everyone has access. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, natural foods co-ops, etc are just about everywhere now. Most supermarket chains are offering larger selections of natural and organic foods.

Fast food chains have added salads, veggie burgers and such to their menus. The choices are there. I can eat healthy and cheap all day long. But I can’t seem to buy a hybrid car.

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