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Who is responsible for selecting children's fast food meals, and what impact does this have on energy content of the selected meals?


  • . Wellard, MHP, APD, Nutrition Project Officer
  • K. Chapman, M Nutr & Diet, APD, Director
  • . Wolfenden, PhD, National Health and Medical Research Council Fellow
  • P. Dodds, PhD, Research Manager
  • . Hughes, MPH, Nutrition Program Manager
  • J. Wiggers, PhD, Professor



The present study aimed to: (i) document the role of parents in children's fast food meal selection; (ii) determine whether parental demographics, weight status or fast food consumption frequency were associated with who selects children's fast food meals; and (iii) determine whether the total energy content of children's meals selected from a hypothetical fast food menu was associated with selection responsibility.


A cross-sectional survey of 477 parents of children aged 3–12 years in New South Wales, Australia, was conducted. Participants completed two computer-assisted telephone interviews. The first collected demographic and anthropometric data including height and weight. Participants were subsequently mailed a hypothetical fast food menu. The second interview asked who was responsible for selecting their children's fast food meals, and what items would be chosen. Energy content of the selections was examined.


Most parents (60%) stated that they shared meal selection responsibility with their children. Parents with higher education levels (P < 0.01) or younger children (P < 0.01) were more likely to take responsibility for meal selection. When parents stated that children were responsible, they chose fast food meals with significantly higher energy content than when responsibility was shared (P < 0.01).


The present study shows that parents are influential in children's fast food intake. Parents should be encouraged to play an active role in assisting children to make healthier fast food choices, to reduce the impact of high-energy meals on their overall diets.