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bhchao

Chinese kids eating American junk food

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bhchao

The NYTimes published a lengthy article on how Chinese kids in the US born to immigrant parents are developing diabetes and obesity problems as a result of eating too much junk food.

The article focuses on the Chinese community in Flushing, especially the kids there who devour KFC, potato chips, and McDonald's.

My conclusion: Asian cuisines are still the healthiest. It is no wonder that people in Japan and Hong Kong have one of the highest life expectancy rates. Chinese-American kids or Chinese kids on the mainland should eat the Asian cuisines preferred by their parents, rather than American junk food like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell; if they want to develop healthy bodies.

If I have kids in the future, I will get in the habit of taking them to Korean and Chinese restaurants. That way their taste buds will adapt to the Asian cuisines. Hopefully they can pass it on to their own children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/12/nyregion/nyregionspecial5/12diabetes.html?pagewanted=1

...Even in China, the number of obese people has tripled since 1992 to 90 million, as Western food has become popular and prosperity has made it possible to eat more. The World Health Organization has warned that Asia faces a "tsunami" of diabetes in the coming decade, and health officials have assailed the Chinese government for its tepid response to the crisis....

For 14 years, ever since he moved to Flushing from Canton, China, he has hewed to the same diet that his ancestors ate for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. "Chicken, frog, duck, all very fresh - that is what we like," said Mr. Li, a 40-year-old business consultant, as he steered a cart through the Hong Kong Market on Main Street.

But at only 3 years old, his twin daughters have already blazed their own path away from history. "They both like the American food," he said. "I cannot stop that."

He found the switch profoundly unsettling - not because he saw health consequences, but because it had happened so fast.

"Only recently, they tried Coke and they loved that," he said, as one twin tried to grab a package of candy. "They won't drink tea anymore. Can you believe it? They will not drink tea."....

At age 3, Henry Chen is learning his first words in English. "Mother" was first, followed by "father." What came next, however, surprised his aunt, Cindy Chen.

"McDonald's," she said. "It was one of his first words."

Neither fast food nor television was part of the Chens' life in Fuzhou, a Chinese city where they struggled to find work before moving to Flushing four years ago.

Now Henry and his family show up at least once a week at McDonald's....

Many Chinese people have replaced those traditional foods with processed foods, Dr. Watson said, and have little idea what is in them. Still, the faith in food persists: for instance, he said, there is a widespread perception in China that eating at McDonald's can somehow make you smarter. In New York, Professor Suarez-Orozco said, immigrant parents often reinforce that connection by rewarding academic achievement with a McDonald's meal....

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Outofin

Kids in mainland are very very much into MacDonald's and KFC.

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imron

In my mind, this is bad parenting plain and simple. A three year old child doesn't have the ability or the funds to go to McDonalds, nor can they go to the shops and buy things such as Coke and potato chips without the help of their parents. Blaming fast-food is not the answer because it doesn't address the problem of parents doting on their children and giving them whatever they want/cry for.

I see it here in China all the time. I have a Chinese friend whose 5 year old nephew basically cries and gets whatever he wants from surrounding parents/grand-parents/relatives. Usually this is coca-cola, chocolate, fast-food and other sweet things. So while the rest of us are sitting around the table eating home-cooked chinese food, this kid is having chocolate bars and biscuits for lunch as if it's a proper meal. The poor kid's teeth are already completey decayed and in a horrible state - so much so that it influences his speech. Which, because he is young and still learning to speak will probably end up having a lifelong impact on his speech patterns. The worse thing is, nobody besides me seems to care about this. When I bring up the fact that it might not be such a good idea to let him eat such things, they all just say it doesn't matter because it's only his baby teeth, and his big teeth will grow down soon anyway, thereby "fixing" the problem.

Unfortunately, besides bad eating habits, the child is also learning that he can get anything he wants as long as he complains loud enough - not exactly a great lesson to be teaching.

For a parent to say of a three year old child "They both like the American food....I cannot stop that." is completely irresponsible. Don't give them access to junk food and they'll eventually eat healthy food rather than go hungry. What's needed is for parents to stand firm, and if the kid cries or throws a tantrum then let them cry. They'll soon learn that this doesn't work and grow up much healthier and more socially well-adjusted because of it.

Anyway, blame fast-foods if you will, but part of the responsibility falls firmly on the shoulders of parents who need to encourage healthy eating habits in their children.

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hakkaboy
My conclusion: Asian cuisines are still the healthiest. It is no wonder that people in Japan and Hong Kong have one of the highest life expectancy rates. Chinese-American kids or Chinese kids on the mainland should eat the Asian cuisines preferred by their parents, rather than American junk food like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell; if they want to develop healthy bodies.

Rubbish! Chinese food comes soaking in oil. It is only because mainland Chinese can't always afford to eat as much as they would like that most Chinese are not overweight. Chinese food is one of the most unhealthy cuisines in the world.

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wushijiao
In my mind, this is bad parenting plain and simple. A three year old child doesn't have the ability or the funds to go to McDonalds, nor can they go to the shops and buy things such as Coke and potato chips without the help of their parents. Blaming fast-food is not the answer because it doesn't address the problem of parents doting on their children and giving them whatever they want/cry for.

I agree. I once took the slow boat from Dalian to Shanghai, which took about two days. In my compartment was a woman who kept feeding her two-year-old meat stick, after meat stick, after meat stick. The baby didn't have "baby fat", but seemed rather obese. Unfortunately, I don't think these sort of horrible eating habits are confined to a certain group of people.

If kids develop bad eating habits when young, they'll find it hard to break them when they grow up.

For a parent to say of a three year old child "They both like the American food....I cannot stop that." is completely irresponsible. Don't give them access to junk food and they'll eventually eat healthy food rather than go hungry.

My parents didn't allow me to drink soda. They also didn't allow me to eat any cereal with 10g of sugar or more, except on weekends. By the time I was 3-5, I could properly read nutrition labels because of that, so could my brothers. Parents must teach their children about proper nutrition.

Similarly, in China, consumption of processed foods has skyrocketed. Regardless of the country, almost all processed foods are devoid of nutrition, low in fiber, and high in sugar. To make things worse, companies use slightly evil marketing techniques to confuse people by stating that the cookies a small kid is eating is "healthy" because it contains calcium and has a picture of a glass of milk on the package. Look at the nutrition label, and you'll find that the amount of calcium is often almost insignificant (20-40mg) or something. I've even seen calcium marketed in beer. According to Chinese law, companies don't have to put the amount of calcium (or other vitamins or minerals) into perspective by showing what a reasonable daily value would be. Certainly, foreign multinationals who market these products should share some of the blame.

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geraldc

There are advantages and disadvantages to all cuisines.

I and all my cousins are ethnic Chinese.

My brother and I grew up in the UK eating Chinese and English food (school meals etc) we're 5ft 8 and 5ft 7 respectively

My HK cousins grew up just eating Chinese food and they're 5ft 7 and 5ft 6.

My US cousins are 5ft 10 and 6ft, and they grew up eating a complete mix of western and Chinese cuisine.

One of my HK cousins is the heaviest of us all, but that's down to 宵夜, the 4th meal of the day...

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johnd
It is only because mainland Chinese can't always afford to eat as much as they would like that most Chinese are not overweight.

I don't think this is true. There are plenty people in China with enough money fatten themselves up, but you'd still be hard-pushed to find one fat person on the street.

I think the difference is that people eat much less carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates. And the richer they get, the less carbohydrates they seem to eat. If you go to a banquet you'll have mainly meat, fish, and vegetables, whilst most people won't even eat rice. Maybe because rice is what you eat if you can't afford anything else.

I think Chinese food does tend to be more healthy, but it also depends on what people choose to eat - and what they think of as special foods.

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mr.stinky

i've been here a total of 10 weeks, and i've already dropped 25 pounds. i don't know if

the weight loss is because of a much healthier diet, or the fact that i don't have enough

chinese to order decent meals.

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johnmck

People in dIfferent countries do have differetn attitudes to bringing up children, I see this between France and the UK. When I go to China I get the impression that children can do whatever they like. Is this a new thing caused by the one child per family policy (i.e. 4 grandparents and 2 parents fighting for the attention of one child). Or is this how children are traditionally brought up in China?

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Harvey

I dunno, I grew up in the US on fast food.

Now I live in Japan (4 yrs) and only eat McD's or fast food about once every 2 months I would say.

Not because I hate it... but just because for about the same price I can get a better tasting, more healthy, larger volume meal from a real restaraunt.

Just because I ate it a lot as a kid didn't make me addicted. On the other hand, maybe -because- I ate so much as a kid, I don't need it as often now! Maybe if I was denied it throughout childhood now I would be hooked...

Who knows!

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Ian_Lee

It is not strange the the kids in Flushing of Chinese immigrant family grow up on junk food.

Why? Very simple.

Most of the Chinese immigrant families in Flushing are middle lower income families whose both parents have one or even two jobs.

So who is doing the cooking for them? Of course nobody. So the mom or dad will just give them ten bucks everyday and tell the kids to take care of themselves on the two meals.

Where do those kids eat if they are left on their own choice?

Of course McDonald or Pizza Hut.

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adrianlondon

I've only been to China once, but in my 10 days in Beijing I ate bucket loads of food. So cheap. And it's not particularly healthy. I didn't gain weight partly as I cycled everywhere and partly as I was on my own some nights so didn't have big dinners every day.

As for all the Chinese being slim and fit - hmm. The younger ones don't seem to be. Just as lardy as those in the UK. In my opinion, they would be slimmer (due to the fact Chinese parents appear to take more time out to cook decent dinners than those in the UK, who often feed their kids crap or get a takeaway) except for the fact that the one-child-family rule means the young boys are doted upon and are spoilt.

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bhchao
To make things worse, companies use slightly evil marketing techniques to confuse people by stating that the cookies a small kid is eating is "healthy" because it contains calcium and has a picture of a glass of milk on the package. Look at the nutrition label, and you'll find that the amount of calcium is often almost insignificant (20-40mg) or something.

A lot of product labels are very misleading. Product advertising would put "low-fat" or "cholesterol-free". But when you look at the nutritional label, the number of calories from fat is huge.

Many people perceive Americanized Chinese food like Panda Inn/Panda Express as having the same nutritional qualities as authentic Chinese food. This is untrue.

I'll take a DTF or a Nanxiang Xiaolong over a Panda Inn anytime.

Parents should take the time to sit down with their children in a nice, affordable restaurant that offers authentic, nutritious cuisine.

I understand that there are dual-income Chinese couples who don't have the time to cook or dine out with their children. At least they should hire a nanny or housekeeper who can cook Asian food that is good for their children's health while they are busy at their jobs.

When I lived in Taiwan as a kid, my mom hired a housekeeper who cooked food like roast beef noodles, spinach, or fish for my sister and me.

One way to really laden yourself with cholesterol is eating the food at the nightmarkets in Taiwan. They are as bad as American junk food. Oily, greasy, fried, sticky...you name it, Taiwanese food at its worst.

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wushijiao

One of the biggest causes of the obesity trend in the US is the decline of the home cooked meal. Studies have shown that home cooked meals tend to have much less fat and sodium (sometimes 50% less) than restaurant meals. Historically speaking, this is partly due to the increased pace of modern life, and perhaps even the trend of both the parents working, which I am no means against.

In China, I wonder to what degree is it the same. Many people can now afford to eat out a lot. Many Chinese people work long hours. Many people have really stresful jobs. Eating out is a lot easier for working people than buying food, cooking it, and doing the dishes.

On top of that, I've noticed that many Chinese people are reluctant to order lots of vegetables when eating out, even if they'd normally eat a lot of vegtables at home. I think the reasoning is, "why would I pay 10 RMB for a plate of simple vegetables that would only cost 2 RMB in a market?" There is some logic to this thinking. Also, let's be honest, vegetables aren't generally considered as prestigious as a form of giving face to a guest (a business partner or friend) as meat. To quote Homer: "You don't win friends with salad!" You win face with expensive seafood, beef, or exotic animals.

However, if people start eating out regularly in China, and as empolyment pressure increases, I doubt the obesity trend will subside.

In any case, I agree that eating nutritious Asian melas loaded with vegetables is probably the best way to ward off a health crisis.

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adrianlondon

Great post, wushijiao.

In London in Chinatown, a plate of meat and rice costs around £5. A plate of vegetables can cost £7. The vegetables are more expensive than all the meat, including duck, due to the fact it has to be imported and kept fresh.

When I went to Beijing, I was so pleased to be able to get plates of chinese veg so cheap, I ordered lots. The people I was eating with (local Beigingers) would have happily not ordered any veg.

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Ian_Lee

Another reason why Chinese kids in US are brought up on junk food is: all the Public High School lunches are catered by McDonald or Burger King or Pizza Hut.

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skylee

I've watched a TV programme in which Jamie Oliver tried to change the eating habits of school kids in Britain and the junk food provided in schools there. Did it actually happen? Has anything been changed at all?

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adrianlondon

Yes, Jamie Oliver is even richer than before :)

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Quest

I think Chinese kids in China eat a lot of junk food too. There are 小卖部s selling all kinds of junk food outside every school.

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LFCLOUDS

Chinese food is actually extremely low on proteins and nutrients.

A typical Chinese meal contains far less lean meat than in the West. It also has much more carbohydrates and fibre and far less fat...as I'm sure any of you can attest to (my lunch at the school everyday is 85% Rice).

Plus, any meat is does have, is usually skimpy and low grade....and is composed mainly of innards, which have little protein at all.

So, a western meal is actually far better from a nutrition standpoint......but due to the relaxed lifestyle in the west (compared to the last few hundred thousand years of evolution) it ends up being far TOO good for many people.

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