(CHICAGO) — Children and teens are consuming more calories when they eat out, according to a study released Monday by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
For the study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers surveyed almost 5,000 children ages 2-11 and another 5,000 between 12 and 19 years old about food eaten outside of the home. On a given day, data shows that about 40 percent of adolescents are consuming fast food or beverages, and a third of 2-11-year-olds are doing so. Children who eat out tend to take in between 126 to 309 more calories per day.
The study’s findings also indicate that diverse communities are impacted differently. The effects of eating out were apparently much worse for children and adolescents living in low-income households, says Lisa Powell, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Fast food restaurants are not the only culprits of high calories, the authors say. Nutritional intake increased for everything they looked at with sitting down at a restaurant that includes even good things such as protein, according to Dr. Tara Harwood, a pediatric nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic. “It’s just too many calories that you have to watch out for,” she says.
Setting aside the nutritional value in fast food restaurants, experts find that it’s the larger portions that are problematic. The increased caloric intake adds up, Harwood says.
“Even with the sit-down restaurants the portions are huge. They’re way bigger than we need to be eating, and the problem is when you put the food in front of someone it’s easy to eat all of it even past when you’re feeling full,” she says.
“One hundred thirty calories a day and 160 a day for the full service restaurant, and that can equal close to half a pound a week,” Harwood warns.
Powell says it suggests a re-evaluation of the tendency to eat out.
“We have these additional calories and we have these poor nutrients being taken in. We really have to rethink some of these patterns,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio