Kids Eat a Lot of Empty Calories, and Most of Them Come from Junk Food.

Color me unsurprised:

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that nearly 40 percent of calories consumed by children ages 2 to 18 were empty calories, the unhealthiest kind of calories.

Half of these calories came from just six foods:
Soda
Sugary fruit drinks
Grain desserts, such as cake, cookies and donuts
Dairy desserts such as ice cream
Pizza
Whole milk, which is far fattier than skim.

This is basically what happens when you live in a world where low-nutrient, calorie-dense foods are widely available, and heavily advertised to children and adults. To say nothing of the fact that most adults have little in the way of adequate nutritional education, and our dysfunctional food culture treats healthy food -- fruits, vegetables, etc. -- as something intrinsically opposed to pleasure or having fun. And to top it off, this country's high rates of child poverty means that a huge number of kids receive little more than empty calories, since those also happen to be the calories that will keep you full for very little money. Skeptical? It's not an accident that rates of childhood obesity are highest among the children most likely to be poor.

What makes this especially frustrating is the fact that it has become a partisan issue; in a rational world, we wouldn't see anything wrong with encouraging Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, and passing legislation to ensure that children -- at the very least -- have access to healthy food. Instead, we live in a world where conservative media figures demonize attempts to educate Americans about nutrition, as if it's "tyranny" to provide healthy food for poor people.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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