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The power of cheap food tactics: Are they making our children fat?

Sugar sweetened beverages on sale.
Sugar sweetened beverages on sale.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In recent years much attention has been paid to the amount of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSB’s) consumed by youth and young adults and the role it is playing in the high rates of obesity within this population. It is estimated that nearly 20% of their diets consist of empty calories provided from these types of drinks. This should create additional concern since the artificial colors in these beverages have also been linked to behavioral issues.

If you have watched television within the last year or the last week for that matter there is a high probability that you have you seen one of those commercials for Sonic that advertise some impossibly complicated food combination. These commercials have some kind of mojo that even make a lacto-ovo vegetarian crave one of their Bacon Double cheeseburgers with sweet potato tots!

In this particular commercial one of the actors is ordering a chocolate, cherry, grape cola. It is guaranteed to cost 99 cents as long as it is ordered before 10 a.m. Where is Mayor Bloomberg when you need him!

With the popularity and advancement of technology youth are spending more and more time engaging in many obesogenic behaviors such as playing computer games and surfing the web. It is estimated that young people on average spend 3 hours a day watching television.

It is plausible to say that young people are being bombarded with media encouraging unhealthy eating habits, possibly on a daily basis. According to the Harvard School of Public Health,’ In 2010, for example, preschoolers viewed an average of 213 ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, while children and teens watched an average of 277 and 406 ads, respectively.

A large fountain drink at this restaurant can contain 300 calories. For arguments sake let’s tack on one of their Breakfast Burritos, which contain a mere 500 calories (sarcasm intended). This one meal totals a staggering 800 calories! This can constitute 40% of a person’s daily caloric intake before 10 a.m. With 10 more hours left in the day and at least two more meals to go (plus snacking), it is safe to say the potential to overeat is high.

With the” trend” of sedentary lifestyles and physical inactivity weight gain is almost inevitable. Water is free on the menu, but how likely is it that a 16-year-old will choose this as a beverage to wash down their supersized #2?

With all the “cheap food tactics” employed by fast food establishments that promote unhealthy eating, it is all the more important for parents and young people to be knowledgeable about and make smarter food choices.

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