The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently conducted a nationwide study of obesity, identified fast food, which is high in calories and fat, as a significant factor in the nation's obesity epidemic. It found that 45 percent of a typical family's budget is now spent on food consumed outside the home. Those who choose the drive-through lanes don't even have to walk to the counter to get their fattening hamburgers, deep-fried chicken, sugary sodas, and donuts.
Each year, fast-food companies spend more than $3 billion dollars advertising these high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar products. And they push the idea of "super-sizing" meals with extra French fries, slices of cheese, and meat patties.
As a result, these companies are the newest target of class-action lawsuits from public-health advocates who call fast food the "new tobacco."
And in response, restaurant chains have posted calorie and fat contents and introduced lower-calorie menu items, most of which have sold poorly. And the latest foray, by the giant McDonald's chain, is a test effort at seven of its locations of an on-site gymnasium for kids. Not playlands -- actual workout spaces, with stationary bikes, climbing equipment, and floor pads on which the kiddies can dance along with exercise leaders on a video screen.
Little Johnny or Jane eats a triple bacon cheeseburger with French fries and a super-sized Coke, then runs over to shoot hoops at the McDonald's mini-basketball court. Problem is, a Yale University researcher points out that a child will burn off just one calorie per minute exercising. One milkshake alone has 200 calories. It would take Jane or Johnny several hours, pushing hard on the exercise mat, to work off a full fast-food meal.