Can living near a fast food restaurant impact our children’s waistlines? Yes, says a new study published in the journal Obesity. The study looked at data on 3,507,542 children over a four-year period. Children who were at least a half a city block away from the nearest fast food restaurant were between 2.5% and 4.4% less likely to be obese than kids who lived closer to fast food.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these foods are highly processed, and they’re going to be elevated in a lot of things that, we just know, aren’t beneficial for kids or adults alike,” said Jennifer Hyland, RD, of the Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.

Items at fast food restaurants are typically high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Often, families turn to fast food because they need something quick. She said one way around this pitfall is to meal-plan your week. That way, you can have a ‘quick’ item, such as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or a slow cooker recipe ready to go, instead of turning to the fast food drive-through.

“Even if you have to get fast food, we can still think of what a balanced plate should look like,” she said. “So, bring that fast food home and heat up a frozen vegetable. There are dollar bags you can get at the grocery store – throw it in the microwave. Grab some raw baby carrots, some cucumbers, some celery, and try to, at least, balance out that fast food meal with some high-fibrous vegetables for the kids.”

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