In the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a study compared children’s empty calorie consumption from three different sources, retail food stores, schools, and fast food restaurants. It also identified food groups that were top contributors of empty calories from each location and it determined the location providing the majority of calories for these main food groups.
The study used data from 3,077 US children aged two to eighteen years participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009-2010.
The results showed no significant difference for the empty calorie content of children’s intake from stores (33%), schools (32%), and fast food restaurants (35%). The food groups that were top contributors were similar from all three locations: sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, and high fat milk (whole and 2%) from stores; high fat milk, grain desserts, and pizza from schools; and sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, french fries, and pizza from fast food restaurants.
These findings warrant the need for improved efforts to reduce empty calorie intake among US children not only from fast food restaurants, but stores and schools as well. Until there is a change in school nutrition standards, schools will continue to serve food that resembles fast food restaurants.