84% Of Parents Fed Their Kids Fast Food In The Past Week

Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity says that 84% of parents surveyed for their epic new study of fast food nutrition and marketing said they’d fed their kids fast food at least once in the past week. 66% of parents surveyed took their kids specifically to McDonald’s.

Why are you doing it? Well, it might be because your kid is asking you to go there…every single day.

From the study:

Forty percent of parents reported that their child asks to go to McDonald’s at least once a week; 15% of preschoolers ask to go every day.

I don’t have kids, but that last part kinda freaks me out for some reason.

Fast Food Facts In Brief [ Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity]


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  1. KyleOrton says:

    I didn’t! Yay 85th percentile! If this were the ACTs, I’d be getting into a fairly good state school!

  2. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    You all must give in too easy.

  3. mythago says:

    Link doesn’t go to a “study”, it goes to a list of bullet points. Is there a link to the details of the study?

    I’m curious about which parents were in that study, and the ages of the children overall. That preschoolers want to go is certainly an unnerving tribute to saturation advertising, but “kids” means 17 and under. It doesn’t stress me out to think about a non-obese teenager wanting a Double Down.

    • gafpromise says:

      At the very least I’d say they’re talking about kids who can’t drive. A 17 year old won’t be begging his parents to go to McDonald’s, he’d just go.

  4. magnetic says:

    I’m pretty proud of myself when I restrict my junk food (of whatever type) to once a week. Apparently it was unjustified.

  5. Ilovegnomes says:

    I just started signing up for mom groups to do activities with my kids since they aren’t in preschool yet. I’ve noticed a trend of rainy day activities being held at playgrounds in restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King and I found out that even some Round Table pizza places have them. I attended one and it seemed like the moms ordered some food and coffee while the kids played but there really wasn’t much eating going on. So I’m wondering out of that statistic of kids who are going, how many are actually eating there versus asking for food to get the free toy or to play at the playground.

    • Rachacha says:

      Rarely do my kids ask for the free toy, they ask to go because they like the food, and when we do go, it is usually only for lunch on a weekend if we are out running errands or away from home for some reason.

      From very early on I tried to teach my kids that the “prizes” were nothing but junk, and I could either order their chicken fingers from the value meal, and supersize my fries and let them share mine, and save $1.25 (or more) that we could apply towards a toy that they would really enjoy, or I could buy them a kids meal and they could get a prize that they would forget about an hour later.

      Every once in a while I will buy a kids meal if the proze is something that really interests my kids (my son loves Nerf Guns, Lego and Star Wars, so when they have such themed prizes I will get the kids meal for him).

      • alSeen says:

        We always get the kids meals when they have the small My Little Pony toys. My daughter loves those more than the regular size ones.

    • nbs2 says:

      That’s a good point, and one that I am guilty of on occasion.

      There have been a few times where a stormy long weekend (or a week of blizzards) has resulted the kids going a little stir crazy in the house, but outdoor play just isn’t a viable option. The result has been trips to CFA, Ikea or the local megamart to take advantage of play areas (the Ikea and megamart being even better because the kids get some mom-and-dad-free time and we get some kid-free time).

      As for fast food, I think the last fast food trip for the kids was September (we normally visit CFA once a month to use our calendar coupon, but missed October).

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      I did a paper on McDonalds last semester looking at some of the statistics on their indoor playgrounds. In a lot of urban areas where parents don’t especially feel safe letting their kids run around in a skanky public playground, they’d much prefer them to play at a McDonalds playground that’s well lit and clean. If kids are playing actively for 2-3 hours and happen to have a happymeal, I don’t see a big problem with that.

  6. DWMILLER says:

    Pre-schoolers also ask to have ice cream for breakfeast.

  7. ellmar says:

    This is known as the Bart and Lisa Simpson method of persuasion …”can we go, can we go, can we go, can we go, can we go” ad infinitum.

  8. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Moral of this story: persistence pays.

  9. leastcmplicated says:

    I didnt! yay finally in the top percentile for something!! No fast food for my boo bear in a while!

  10. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    It isn’t always the kids. My fiance’s ex-wife hates cooking, and so eats fast food for lunch and dinner Every. Single. Day. Yes she’s obese, and fiance’s son is overweight because the only time the boy gets a good home-cooked meal is the two days every two weeks that he gets to spend with his father. Of course it doesn’t help that the woman absolutely refuses to let her son go outside and get fresh air and exercise because of some unexplained paranoia and control issues. Its not always the KIDS that make parents go to fast food all the time.

    • CalicoGal says:

      That’s child abuse. How old is this poor child? The “mother” should not have custody. :-(

      • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

        He’s 12. His father and I are planning to try to get custody once we marry. The boy is all for it too.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      That’s not someone who “hates cooking”, that’s someone who is a self-destructive moron and is also taking it out on her child. I don’t like to cook, but when I’m responsible for mealtime during the week, it’s usually a roast chicken from the supermarket with a side of vegetables, which can last my daughter and I at least 2-3 nights. Sometimes I’ll cave and make pasta (also with mandatory veggies) or Hamburger Helper (always with broccoli, because it goes with the cheesy sauce).

      Oh, but we fail according to this survey, because we usually get California Tortilla takeout every Friday night as a treat to ourselves.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      With high levels of inactivity you can get fat on home-cooked meals, too.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Very true, and homecooked meals != healthy. When my boyfriend and I started living together, we both gained about 10 pounds, even though I cook reasonably healthy things – vegetables, beans, rice, lean meat. We were just eating WAY TOO MUCH of it all.

    • Hoot says:

      This sounds like my disgusting ex and his mother.

  11. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    I have a 6 year old and I didn’t.
    Sorry to be on a high horse, but there’s no reason for kids that young to have McDonald’s that often. We go maybe once every couple weeks and it’s as a treat and my son knows it’s bad for him.
    I do believe that fast food has attributed childhood obesity, but it’s not the fast food, it’s how often parents take their kids.

    • Michaela says:

      I understand that. My parents were sure to make sure treats remained treats rather that staples. I’ve eaten junk, and so has my sister, but we were taught to not overdo it. Given that many of my family members are overweight, and my sister and I are not, I think that this approach to eating has had a positive impact on our health.

  12. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I didn’t ask my mom for fast food all the time when I was a kid, but now that I’m an adult, I find myself asking myself what day of the week I want to go to Chipotle. I don’t eat fast food, but I love Chipotle.

    • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

      Chipotle is amazing. My husband prefers Moe’s though, so that’s usually where we get our burrito fix. Moe’s also has a great deal on Monday. Hmmmm….

      • Das G says:

        Ew, Moes! That’s almost a deal breaker! Luckily, my wife and I discovered Chipotle and Qdoba (before it was named Qdoba) when we lived in Denver years ago. And she agrees that Moe’s is garbage compared to the other 2, so I never have to endure such substandard burritos. :D

    • jessjj347 says:

      IAWTC. Very much so.

    • mythago says:

      Um…how is Chipotle not fast food? It may be delicious and healthy, but it’s fast food.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Oh how one word changes it all..I meant it to say “I don’t eat much fast food.”

      • Derigiberble says:

        Healthy? Take a look at the calorie and sodium amounts in just about everything Chipotle offers and they are up there with any other fast food chain.

        I too find it delicious but I make sure to split a single burrito bowl into two meals.

  13. Doubts42 says:

    Who was surveyed, when, where? How were the questions biased?
    None of these questions are answered in the article or on the Rudd website. And even if it is 100% true…….so what? If my kid is eating healthy meals 20 out of 21 times in a week, is the once a week Happy meal going to be detrimental?
    When my preschooler is at home all he wants to do is watch TV or play a video game ( I said what he wants to do, not what I allow him to do), when we go to McDonalds I can’t get him to stop running, jumping and playing, also known as exercising, at the playground long enough to eat a Mcnuggett.

  14. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “I don’t have kids, but that last part kinda freaks me out for some reason.”

    …the part of that statement that freaks me out is that it isn’t 95% instead of 15%.

  15. Larraque eats babies says:

    84% of kids must be morbidly obese!

  16. Marlin says:

    I can;t even remember the last time my kid had fast food. We cook at home and the worst he gets is maybe some of my frozen pizza.

    Can;t believe parents think fast food is a good idea except maybe once every several months or so.

    • Jevia says:

      I have to agree. Sure, my kids do ask to go to McDonalds at least once a week, and at least once a week I tell them no. I don’t see the opposite happening any time soon. We’ve been to our local McD’s twice in the past 3 years (although we have been to the Wendy’s maybe 6 times). I know most of the time, its because of the playground, so we just go to a real playground.

      • mythago says:

        Oh for crying out loud. Can we really not turn this thread into the I’m A Better Parent Than You Olympics?

    • nealbscott says:

      Did you mean ‘good’ as in good for you, or ‘good’ as in good tasting?

  17. Groanan says:

    If they skip on the soda / juice, I do not see the problem with fast food for children.

    But the fact that advertisers are better at controlling toddlers than their own parents makes me think that it was unwise to make spanking a crime.

    • Marlin says:

      A medium fry and small cheeseburger have about 700 calories alone. Thats more than half of what a 4 year old should get in a day, not including a drink as you said.

      • Groanan says:

        Yes but what would they eat at home? Hamburger helper and a coke? Or at a restaurant?
        I am sure some cultures have healthy foods that they feed their children, but I do not think the modern American family, the one that buys the kits at grocery stores, has healthy at-home meals.

        If I eat tacos that I make at home they will have a lot more fat in them than Taco Bell’s because I won’t skimp on the meat, they will also be loaded with cheese and sour cream, and they will weigh about twice as much as what I would order from Taco Bell.

        Comparatively, I do not see the harm of fast food.

      • Burzmali says:

        Who gives their 4 year old a medium order of fries? And what 4 year old can finish said fries along with the cheeseburger?

    • esk42 says:

      …also, spanking is not a crime.

      • LadyTL says:

        Actually in alot of places I have been to, if someone sees you spanking your child in public it gets child services called down on your family.

      • Tongsy says:

        It is if you’re spanking someone elses kids because they won’t do it.

    • Mighty914 says:

      Is it?

      • Groanan says:

        “Spanking” is assault w/ battery. To my knowledge there is no “except if the person struck is your own child” provision in penal code statutes against battery.

        • Jezz1226 says:

          Parental privilege is an affirmative defense to child abuse. There are obvious limits to it, you can’t just “get away” with child abuse if its your child. But, if its something that is borderline child abuse, it would probably push it into the not child abuse side. Corporal punishment is not per se illegal (Cite: In Re Ethan H.; Supreme Court of New Hampshire; 1992 (I can get the exact citation and other cases/statutes if you get really curious))

    • mythago says:

      Obvious troll is obvious.

  18. ajaxd says:

    Where was the survey taken? At McDonalds entrance? I highly doubt these numbers. There is no link to the survey either.

  19. Anonymously says:

    The first public place my daughter went was McDonalds. I’m a failure as a faja.:(

  20. Tim says:

    Wait, 66% of parents take their kids to McDonald’s, but only 40% of parents’ children ask to go? So for the other 26%, what’s the excuse?

  21. bsh0544 says:

    I did!

    Then again, we went on a road trip this weekend. Kind of hard to cook a meal of any sort in the car. Probably won’t see the inside of a McD’s again until our next long trip (Thanksgiving).

  22. dulcinea47 says:

    Easy solution- don’t take them there, ever. Then they will realize they’re never going there and stop asking.

    • Doubts42 says:

      Not a parent are you. here are a few things my child has never had and probably never will. but he asks for all of them all the time
      A horse
      A rocketship
      A baby brother
      a trip to the amazon river
      count chocula cereal
      a power rangers costume.

      I could go on and on.

  23. valthun says:

    Oh shock and horror. They fed their kids fast food at least once per week. You know sometimes its just easier than cooking, and when they ask, you figure, what the hell I don’t want to cook and clean up today. Or you are out shopping with the kids in tow and everyone is hungry, fast food is the cheaper option.

    Travel is another area where fast food becomes predominant, because most hotels don’t allow for a lot of cooking. This study seems to have been done to show that we eat a lot of fast food, which we already know.

    • Marlin says:

      Or the real shock and horror, parents could plan ahead or even better find other quick foods that are not as bad as McJunks double cheseburger and fries.

      • Kate says:

        Um, like what? A Mcdonalds child’s meal has a lot less fat and calories and cost than most restaurant meals and I’m not sure why once a week is horrible, sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    • GameHen says:

      It’s not even once per week…it’s once in the last week. We take our kids to fast food rarely, but if we happened to hit the drive through this last week for the first time in 3 months because we were out grocery shopping and running errands during lunch time, then we’d be included in the 84%.

  24. Erika'sPowerMinute says:

    Big whoop. I have four kids and sometimes we have to grab a quick bite at a fast food restaurant when we’re on a tight evening schedule. Busy families are busy. Most of the time I cook and we eat together at the dinner table, but hitting the drive-thru once or twice a month isn’t gonna kill anyone. My kids are happy, active, slender, and understand moderation. It is possible, I swear. Lighten up.

    • samandiriel says:

      I think part of the issue here is not just that kids are eating fast food too often, but that children as young as 2 are seen as target audiences and are marketed to.

  25. Taliskan says:

    Am I the only one that read that as “84% of Parents Fed Their Children Food in the Past Week”, and then pondered what parents were giving to their children instead of food? It’s been a long Monday.

  26. galm666 says:

    Good god, that’s awful.

  27. mindaika says:

    It’s almost as if some kind of force is spreadind through the air, being targeted directly at children, to increase their desire for fast food…

  28. Burzmali says:

    I’m in that 84%. When I get fast food for my son, it’s usually just chicken nuggets and I do it because I’m getting food for myself already. I then add fruit, juice/milk, and sometimes a vegetable when I get home. He has never specifically asked to go some place, and we don’t get kids meals. I don’t see why getting fast food for your kids on occasion is a bad thing. Everything in moderation and all that.

  29. ma1234 says:

    My kids are healthy and of normal weight, and I take them to get a Happy Meal (Burger King, not McDonald’s) twice a week or so. And they can have it with Coke and fries, not milk and apple slices.

    I must be a terrible parent.

  30. Scoobatz says:

    Who cares.

  31. AngryK9 says:

    It just proves to me that there are lots of parents out there that might need lessons on how to say no…

  32. kmw2 says:

    Huh. I’m really blowing the curve, my kid hasn’t been to a fast foo restaurant in almost ten years. (We were traveling and got stuck in DFW four hours longer than planned. I cracked, there was no way I was going to make a four-year old go without food for ten hours.)

  33. Hoss says:

    This isn’t entirely outrageous without knowing what the kids eat at home. My fear is too many parents aren’t very handy in the kitchen. Moreover, the levels of salts, sugars, fats, and just plain chemistry in many store bought foods is as bad of McDonalds. I’m not saying everyone needs to tend to chickens and goats (in fact these can be a health concern around small children), but the ability to make a healthy meal saves money and is better for the kids

  34. sweetgreenthing says:

    I feel awesome now, thanks! My preschooler never asks, because we told her Mcdonald’s makes you sick, but even if she did… too bad. You’re 4 and you can’t drive yourself there! haha!
    We did go to In N Out once last week, because it was my husband’s night to cook, and he doesn’t cook.

  35. ryanasimov says:

    My 2 year-old daughter has never had fast food. Not once. I know it’s inevitable that she’ll eat it once she’s older and has more activities away from home, but my wife and I are agreed to hold off as long as possible. We both enjoy clean eating and exercise and we’re trying to teach by example.

  36. tbax929 says:

    These parents should learn how to say no to their kids. I’d have eaten McDonald’s every day when I was a kid, but my parents didn’t let me make our meal-time decisions. It’s called parenting.

  37. LBD "Nytetrayn" says:

    This is just sad. Perhaps even pathetic.

    By all means, I would rather raise my kids my way, but this really makes the San Francisco ban on Happy Meal toys seem more justified, if only a little.

  38. verdegrrl says:

    As a kid, I can count the number of times I visited McDonalds on one hand. Today I might visit a fast food place every 2 or 3 weeks. If I go there during lunch or after school, most places are mobbed. It’s just crazy! More than half the kids in line are clearly overweight.

  39. alana0j says:

    Guilty. Although since we were on the go today I took my 3 year old to Subway, I asked her how her sandwich was and she smiled and said “Really super delicious mommy!”

    Ahhh the joys of parenthood!

  40. sholmes says:

    I work in a retail outlet that contains a small McDonalds store, McSnack, and I constantly hear kids of all ages, even under two, begging for McDonalds. I also see many adults walking through the store feeding their faces and leaving the garbage wherever they find convenient. The two seem to go hand in hand.

  41. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    Guess what? I was just at McDonald’s last Saturday. My kid asks to go there all the time.

    Do you what she eats? Almost half of a cheeseburger and some of the chocolate milk.

    Do you know why she continually asks to go there? To go down the slide and run around and get exercise….

    Sometimes, the answer is not obvious.

  42. LordXar says:

    Grow a backbone parents who are giving into their kids demands for McDonalds. When my daughter asks, I say no and that’s the end of it.

    What counts as fast food in the survey? There is a big difference between getting a chicken/fruit/milk meal at Chick-Fil-A and a cheesburger/fry/soda meal at McDonalds. How wide a net are we throwing for this survey.

  43. sharkzfanz says:

    84% Fed their kids fast food
    15% Lied and did not admit feeding their kids fast food
    1% Did not feed their kids fast food……

  44. Elsydeon says:

    Fast food is a good target, but obesity is more than just that. The really big issue is city planning. We tell our kids to play “outside” but what is there outside? NOTHING. Most cities have densely packed residential areas with little to no recreation facilities expect in far-off places. Also, many of these facilities are almost entirely oriented toward team sports that require equipment (the ubiquitous basketball) or small children (the plastic stuff), so when children outgrow the plastic stuff, they have to deal with having to find equipment and other players. These areas tend to also have higher levels of asthma, which severely limits physical activity, due to pollution, 2nd hand smoke (commonly of harsh, low quality menthol cigarettes), and lack of medical attention.

    The thing is, its easier to blame fast food than blame people who don’t cook, bad schools that don’t teach home ec, or bad city planners. Of course since these are liberal constructs, it is no wonder a liberal press won’t mention them:).

  45. mikull says:

    Embarrassing headline for any reputable blog. Pseudoscientific sensationalism preying upon “fast food phobia” may garner attention, but undeservedly. Consider this reference article: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4088

    Notably, “McDonald’s hamburgers are not even as grossly calorific as most people probably think. Their biggest burger, the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, contains 740 calories. Three of those a day, which is more than anyone reasonably eats, still amounts to a good, healthy, slim 2,200 calorie diet for an adult. The real offenders on fast food menus are not the hamburgers at all, but the drinks; especially the milkshakes.

    …Chock-full of trans-fats, sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol? The United States and Canada both use a system called the Dietary Reference Intake to establish ideal levels of nutrients. These four compounds listed have an ideal level of “as low as possible”, except sodium. Ideally you should take 1500mg of sodium each day, and you should not take in more than 2300mg. McDonald’s poster child of evil, the Big Mac, delivers 1040mg of sodium, about 2/3 of your daily ideal. Not a problem by itself, but don’t eat three of them.

    The Big Mac delivers 10g of saturated fat, which is 10g more than you want; but realistically it’s virtually impossible to get zero. The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that you keep your saturated fat intake under 7% of your daily caloric intake, and the Big Mac fulfills half of that. So, in short, two Big Macs a day maxes out your recommended safe levels of saturated fat.

    The Big Mac’s 75mg of cholesterol represents 1/4 of the CDC and World Health Organization’s daily recommended maximum. I’m not going to eat four of them a day, so that’s not a problem.

    The fast food restaurant chains have all pledged to switch to cooking oils free of trans-fats. Some have completed this, others, including McDonald’s, are still completing the switch. But although it’s possible to eliminate the addition of trans-fats to fried foods, some foods, like meat and some vegetables, contain naturally occurring trans-fat. 2-5% of the fat in livestock is trans-fat. Whether you order a Big Mac or barbecue your own organic filet mignon, you’re getting trans-fat. McDonald’s doesn’t add it, and your neighborhood butcher has no way of reducing it. A big Mac (or any comparable meat of the same quantity) contains 1.5g of trans-fat, which is more than you want, but only about 8% of the daily amount the World Health Organization says you really, really need to keep it under. Eight percent — the Big Mac is hardly the monster it’s made out to be.”

  46. Draw2much says:

    I’m not sure why this is a big deal? Or even why it’s bad? My Mom would meet up with her best friend at Burger King for lunch and then all the kids would play in the little kiddy play-ground play area. We never over ate and we spent most of the time playing. And Mom got out of the house and had time with a friend.

    My Mom couldn’t cook until I was 14. We never ate organic. Most of our food came out of a box or can. My sister and I weren’t obese, or even chubby. In fact we were super skinny. My sister still is. (Not me though that has nothing to do with my parents. xD)

    So, yeah, no big deal. Obesity isn’t the product of eating out once a week. It’s what you eat at home and how much of it and what physical activities you’re doing.