Just how bad is the teen diet?
That may depend on what food is offered to a teenager.
A study published in the Hawaii Medical Journal asked 104 teenagers to order one dinner from each of 10 different restaurant menus.
Here are the average calories and fat grams for each restaurant dinner order by teenagers from high to low calories:
All of these restaurants have lower calorie selections that were not chosen by the teenagers (Yamamoto JA, Adolescent calorie/fat menu ordering at fast food restaurants compared to other restaurants, Hawaii Medical Journal, August 2006).
What will improve a teen's diet?
In order to find out if teenagers could change their choices, researchers also did another study of the teen diet at fast food restaurants.
They compared teens ordering with or without information printed on the menu about calories and fat for every menu item.
33% of the teenagers that rated themselves as overweight ordered a lower calorie meal when the menus showed calorie and fat content of each item
Out of 106 teens making selections from menus with nutritional information, 31 changed their orders voluntarily resulting in 43 meals with decreased calories and 11 meals with increased calories (Yamamoto JA, Adolescent fast food and restaurant ordering behavior with and without calorie and fat content menu information, Journal of Adolescent Health, November 2005).
Here is a list of calories in fast food.
Overweight teens in the United States
Teenagers in the United States need all the help they can get to control teen diet calorie choices.
Overweight children and teens from age 6-17 have increased from 5% to approximately 18% in the last 25 years.
That means there are now around 9 million overweight children and teens in the U.S. (CDC/NCHS, 2007).
Early education for overweight teenagers about their individual diets can be life-saving.
If the teens don't change their habits, between 50% and 80% of overweight teenagers will become obese by age 25 with all the associated health problems and shorter lifespans (CDC/NCHS).
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