It's not just what you eat but where you eat it
It's not just what you eat and how much you eat but also where you eat according to a new study which is the first to look at eating location as a factor in obesity among children.
The study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that food prepared outside the home are partly responsible for children's higher calorie intake. Researchers say food prepared outside the home is more likely to be high in calories and low in nutritional value.
The researchers, who looked at data on 29,217 children aged from 2 to 18 years from four nationally representative surveys of food intake for the U.S. population, found that the largest increases in calorie intake between 1994 and 2006 was found in fast food eaten in the home and store-bought food eaten away from home.
Fast foods have now replaced meals prepared by schools as the main source of food not prepared in the home among American children the researches found. When eating away from the home, children are now most likely to get most of their energy intake from shop-bought food the study found.
"Overall, this study highlights the continuing rapid shifts in the sources of food for children in the US-both where it's eaten and where it's prepared," commented Barry M. Popkin, PhD, Professor of Nutrition, UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Professor Popkin's work found that the increase of 179 kcal-per-day in children's energy intake from 1977-2006 coincided with an increase of 255 kcal-per-day eaten outside the home. In 1977 American children got 23.4 of their calories outside the home, in 2006 it was 33.9%.
Popkin said: "These results underscore the need to deepen our understanding of food preparation and consumption patterns, and further pinpoint where research and programmatic activity should focus. The differences in energy intake by eating location revealed in this analysis demonstrate that eating location is an important factor in the diet of American children."
He has urged further research.
Top Image Credit: © Gabriel-Ciscardi