More than a third of U.S. children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day during a recent four-year period – and the share of calories they’re consuming has been rising, according to a new federal report.
The report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that 36.3% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 consumed fast food on any given day between 2015 and 2018.
Within that share, 13.8% of children and adolescents consumed between 25% and 45% of their daily calories from fast food, while 11.4% got more than 45% of their daily calories from it. The CDC notes in its report that fast food is “associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality in children and adolescents.”
Photos: Feeding America
The report also shows that fast-food consumption has fluctuated over the years. The average percentage of fast-food calories consumed by children and adolescents on a given day fell from 14.1% in 2003-2004 to 10.6% in 2009-2010, before it started to generally increase and land at 14.4% in 2017-2018. Adolescents aged 12 to 19 saw a notably large one-year jump in calories from fast food in recent years, the report shows: from 15.3% in 2015-2016 to 18% in 2017-2018.
There were disparities among different demographics, according to the CDC.
“Adolescents aged 12-19 consumed a higher average percentage of daily calories from fast food than did younger children, overall and across all demographics,” the report reads, while also noting that the average percentage of fast-food calories consumed by adolescents was 16.7% between 2015 and 2018, compared with 11.4% for children aged 2 to 11.
Hispanic and Black adolescents were consuming disproportionately more fast-food calories than white adolescents, the report found. The mean percentage of calories from fast food on any given day within the four-year range was 21.5% for non-Hispanic Black adolescents and 18.5% for Hispanic adolescents. The rate for non-Hispanic white adolescents was 14.8%, according to the CDC.
The differences by race or ethnicity weren’t significant for children aged 2 to 11, but non-Hispanic Black children and adolescents had the highest rate of fast-food calorie consumption – 16.9% – overall across ages 2 to 19.