Researchers: Enlist stores in the fight against childhood obesity.
A dollar goes a long way when you’re buying popsicles and soda, according to a new study of fourth-through-six graders in Philadelphia. Obesity experts at Temple University studied children’s snacking habits and found that kids are getting too many empty calories on the cheap.
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The researchers staked out corner stores before and after school, peeked in shopping bags, and asked students about their purchases.
Kelley Borradaile led the study. More than half of students said they shopped at their corner store every day, and Borradaile says, on average children bought nearly 360 calories worth of snacks during each visit.
Borradaile: Children were spending about a dollar and seven cents which purchases almost 360 calories. And the most frequently purchased items were energy-dense foods and beverages, such as chips, candy and sugar sweetened beverages; foods high in calories.
Most of the students surveyed were low-income black or Latino children; two groups that have a high risk for being overweight. Borradaile says obesity prevention efforts for urban kids should help them make healthier choices wherever they shop.
The Philadelphia non-profit, The Food Trust, is working with corner store owners to provide healthier options in kid-friendly sizes. Sandy Sherman leads education efforts at The Food Trust.
Sherman: Kids really do like fresh fruits and vegetables. They like certain types of fresh fruits and vegetables. They want them to be of the type that they like and they want them to be at a price that they can afford.
Sherman says paying attention to children’s preferences can make nutritious snacks more appealing. Strawberries, pineapples and watermelon are favorites, she says, while honeydew and cantaloupe often get passed over.
Sherman says children will buy healthy snacks if they are affordable, kid-sized, and branded with colorful, appealing logos.
Sherman: Yes, students also like less healthy snacks, but we find that they are the choice because they are less expensive, they are non perishable and easy to pick up and eat on the go.
The Food Trust is working in five Philadelphia communities to educate children and persuade store owners to stock fruit cups and water.
The Temple study is reported in the journal Pediatrics.