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Who Favors Fast Food?

Study: Views, Eating Habits Vary Among Ethnic Groups
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 17, 2005 -- Fast food is viewed differently by various ethnic groups, and that may affect eating habits, a new study shows.

The findings include:

  • Blacks reported more exposure to fast-food promotions than Asian-Americans.
  • Whites reported less access to fast food than other ethnic groups.
  • Blacks bought fast food for their kids more often than whites.
  • Asian-Americans were least likely to view fast food as a normal part of diet.

The study was presented in Vancouver, Canada, at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity's annual scientific meeting.

About the Study

The study included the primary caregivers of 250 black, Hispanic, white, and Asian American children at community health centers.

The caregivers were asked about their attitudes toward fast food, access to fast food, exposure to fast-food promotions, and frequency of eating fast food.

The researchers included Sonya Grier, PhD, MBA, a business professor from Stanford University and a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school.

People who reported better access to fast food and more exposure to fast-food promotions were more likely to view fast food favorably and to buy it more often for their kids, the study shows.

Targeted food marketing may encourage unhealthy attitudes toward fast food and contribute to ethnic differences in childhood obesity rates, write the researchers in their report.

Keep in Mind

The study doesn't define fast food. It's not clear what fast-food items the caregivers were thinking about and buying. Some fast-food restaurants offer salads, fruit, and yogurts as well as cheeseburgers and fries.

The study also didn't note the kids' weight, how often they ate fast foods, or their income levels.

No matter where kids (or adults) eat, pounds gather when calories consumed exceed calories burned.

Eating Out Healthfully

If you eat out a lot, here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Pyramid" plan for doing so healthfully:

  • Order a drink without added sugar (such as water, fat-free or low-fat milk, or unsweetened tea).
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side and limit how much you use.
  • Choose a small- or medium-sized portion.
  • If you order a big serving, share it or set aside part of it to take home.
  • Ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches, if you have a choice.
  • Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
  • Choose main dishes that include vegetables.
  • Add little or no butter to your food.
  • Order foods that don't have creamy sauces or gravies.
  • Choose fruits for dessert most often.
  • Pack some fruit, sliced veggies, unsalted nuts, or low-fat cheese when you're on the road.

Remember, government health experts recommend eating five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Divide those servings up however you want over the course of the day -- but think diversity. Nine servings of french fries probably aren't what nutritionists have in mind.

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