With obesity being a global epidemic, especially the problem of childhood obesity, it is critical that we put forth more effort toward combating the issue.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to overindulging would be fast food, specifically the familiar combo meals that most people choose when visiting fast food establishments. These meals can often contain more fat and calories in one meal than a person or a child needs in an entire day.
At Cornell University, researchers recently investigated whether or not cutting a children’s fast food combo meal by a mere 104 calories would lead to the children selecting lower calorie side options or compensate by choosing a high calorie beverage or higher calorie entrée.
In 2012, new Happy Meal options were introduced at McDonald’s restaurants worldwide, offering smaller French fry servings or a choice of apples, and beverage options that included milk, chocolate milk, fountain soda or apple juice, in an effort to cut calories from this previously high-fat combo meal. The lower calorie options reduced the lowest calories available by 98 total calories.
Researchers wondered whether lowering the caloric content would lead to overcompensating with other choices. Says Andrew Hanks, one of the lead researchers, “there's evidence of compensation when your calories decrease.”
After analyzing the data from the transactions at 30 different McDonald’s restaurants, researchers concluded that more than 10% of the children opted out of the high calorie fountain drink, choosing milk or chocolate milk instead.
There was virtually no change in the entrée selections, with nearly 99% of the children continuing to choose chicken nuggets as the entrée. With the chocolate milk being the fat-free type, as opposed to the previously-offered 1%, it provided 40 fewer calories.
The results of this study help to illuminate how even small changes in dietary offerings can make a difference in overall caloric intake—not just for children, but adults can opt for healthier choices, too.
Fast food restaurants are continuing to join the bandwagon when it comes to fighting obesity, and parents should be considering these changes at home, too, to help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and help to prevent the chronic health conditions that can be associated with this unhealthy condition.
SOURCES: Journal Reference:Wansink, B., & Hanks, A. Calorie reductions and within-meal calorie compensation in children's meal combos.Obesity, December 2013Cornell Food & Brand Lab. "Healthier happy meals." ScienceDaily, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.; http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/happymeal;http://www.reuters.com/article/