What do teen-agers eat? Whatever they want Research: A study shows that teens have most dinners at home, drink milk at school and put McDonald's at the top of the fast-food list.

September 20, 1998|By Judith Forman | Judith Forman,Sun Staff

An average American teen-ager eats more than four times a day, 365 days a year. Almost 50 percent of teens order a hamburger when they go out for fast food. And one in six teen eating occasions falls between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

All these foodie facts and more are part of "A Day in the Life of a Teen's Appetite," a study based on two-day diaries from 743 teens and more than 6,400 individual teen meals that was released in June by Channel One Network.

Channel One Network, with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, produces Channel One News - a daily news and information program seen daily by 8 million American 12- to 17-year-olds in their homeroom classes.

The information was collected over a two-week period in November 1997 in Port Washington, N.Y.

While the study concluded that teens visit fast-food restaurants about twice a week and spend $1 billion annually in food and beverage vending machines, Anita Sandretto of the University of Michigan's School of Public Health said it's unfair to lump all teen-agers together as consumers of junk food.

"Teens are as individual in what they eat as adults are," said Sandretto, the Ann Arbor-based acting director of the department of human nutrition. "Are teens really junk-food junkies? I don't think any more than adults are."

But she said some teen-age eating patterns are easy to generalize about.

"There is very little question that most teen-age boys eat more than girls," she said.

"Boys start their growth spurt [at ages 15-18] later than girls [at ages 10-13]. Many young women are extremely anxious about body image, what they eat, how much they eat, what they look like. Young males want to be bulkier and more muscular."

Other statistics:

* The nation's 23 million 12- to 17-year-olds eat an average of four times each day. Almost half (42 percent) eat five or more times a day.

* During the week, most lunches (58 percent) originate in school and 28 percent come from home. During the weekends, 58 percent of lunches are from home and 30 percent come from restaurants.

* Milk is more likely to be consumed during the week at school, while soda is the beverage of choice during weekends.

* About 75 percent of teen dinners are eaten at home, and the typical dinner consists of meat or pasta, vegetables and a side dish of rice or potatoes.

* McDonald's is the leading fast-food restaurant among American teens, followed by Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Domino's.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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