We’ve tried everything to curb childhood obesity. Marketers have done their best to make carrots seem radical and soda seem reasonable. Policymakers have contemplated barring fast-food restaurants from opening near schools. McDonalds is figuring out how to broadcast its message straight from the mouths of science teachers. There are soda taxes. Sad posters. The Whip. The Nae Nae. You name it.
But what foods are actually associated with weight gain in kids?
To find out, a group of researchers from Duke–National University of Singapore looked to the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which consists of 15,444 children born in 1991 and 1992 around Bristol, a city in southwest England. For their analysis, they included the 4,646 children who filled out a three-day food diary and had their height, weight, and physical activity measured at ages 7, 10, and 13. They tracked the changes in their BMI and measured how much chubbier or thinner they were than the average kid their age.
Their findings, published in Health Affairs this week, show that the children who gained the most excess weight over the course of three years ate more butter and margarine, battered fish and poultry, potato chips, processed meat, French fries, milk, sweets, and sugary beverages. The only foods associated with staying at a healthy weight? Whole grains and high-fiber breakfast cereal.