Junk Food Consumption
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Although most Americans believe that they should eat a better diet (one low in fat and sugar, while high in carbohydrates) most continue to eat the more unhealthy foods they are comfortable with. (Statistical Abstract of the U.S. 1988, 108th ed.)
Children's Saturday-morning TV shows are some of the worst perpetrators of junk food. Nine out of ten food commercials during cartoons are for candy bars, sugary cereals, fatty fast food, and other "nutritionally flawed" foods. On 19 hours of monitored local Saturday morning shows, nearly two thirds of the 340 ads were for food, and only eight of these commercials emphasized "reasonably nutritious" products such as low-sugar cereal or milk.
During the past decade, the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents has increased dramatically
Junk foods typically contain high levels of calories from sugar or fat with little protein, vitamins or minerals. Foods commonly considered junk foods include salted snack foods, gum, candy, sweet desserts, fried fast food, and sugary carbonated beverages. (Source: Larsen, Joeanne; MS, RD, LD http://www.dietitian.com/junkfood.html) Many foods such as hamburgers, pizza, and tacos can be considered either healthy or junk food depending on their ingredients and preparation methods with the more highly processed items usually falling under the junk food category.
This year Americans will spend over $110 billion on fast food—more than they'll spend on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined. Every day about one quarter of the U.S. population eats fast food. The rate of obesity among American children has doubled since the late 1970s. (Source: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser)
Kids between the ages of 6 and 14 eat fast food 157,000,000 times every month. About 50,000,000 Americans eat at fast food restaurants daily. That is almost 1/6 of the American population. (Source: http://www.pamf.org/teen/health/nutrition/fastfood.html)
The United States has the largest fast food industry in the world, and American fast food restaurants are located in over 100 countries. Approximately 2 million U.S. workers are employed in the areas of food preparation and food servicing including fast food in the USA. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics) However, fast food has been losing market share to fast casual dining restaurants, which offer more robust and expensive cuisines. (Source: John Eligon ,2008-01-13, "Where to Eat? A New Restaurant Genre Offers Manhattan More Choices," The New York Times)
To see why fast food customers are getting obese and unhealthy, see the chart below.