Cincinnati makes top 10 in fast food frenzy

According to a recent survey by The Daily Beast, Cincinnati Ranked number eight for cities in the United States that have the most fast food, based on population. In all, Cincinnati had 313 restaurants which came to 94 restaurants for every 100,000 residents.

"You can't not see a fast food restaurant," Adrian Crosby said. "We need more 'healthier' alternatives. That's one of the reasons my daughter is here and we've changed out eating habits at home."

Crosby's nine year old daughter is taking part in a Cincinnati Children's Hospital program called Health Works! that is aimed at combating childhood obesity.

"She doesn't deserve this," Crosby said of his daughter Sophia. "So, as a family, we had to make some changes."

Crosby says those changes included an overhaul of their fast food eating habits.

"Between the kids and the sports there's nothing wrong with that," Crosby said. "But we've got to learn to have something at home to eat versus 'Ok, let's all go to Burger King, Let's go to McDonalds'. No. Let's all go home and have a family meal."

The dilemma is one that more and more families are facing these days according to area health officials.

"I've seen a big growth in fast food and more and more reliance on fast food as a major part of people's diets," shared Lauren Niemes, Director of The Nutrition Council.

As a dietician for 25 years, Niemes says fast food used to be a treat, now it is often a staple. She names the loss of cooking skills, the increase in the availability of fast food restaurants, marketing, and then the formulation of tastes as major influencing factors.

"Why does any of this matter? It matters because we have the first generation of young people that may actually live shorter lives, and sicker lives, than any generation before," explained Stacy Wegley, Director of Health Promotion and Education for Hamilton County Public Health.

Many agree that the growth of value menus have only perpetuated the problem in theses still tough economic times.

"They make it so easy to come in and get something for a dollar," Crosby said. "You can get a McDouble, you can get a chicken sandwich."

"You see a value there where you can feel relatively full and feel satisfied on a low dollar cost," Niemes agreed.

All agree that Cincinnati is topping the list in large part to simple economics.

"It's supply and demand," Crosby said. "We ask for it and they're giving it to us. We've asked for more affordable menu items and there giving it to us, we're eating it up."

In Hamilton County, however, there's a movement to make changes.

"I want people to at least have choices and to at least have the healthier choice be the easy choice," Niemes said. "Right now fast food is way too easy of a choice for way too many of our community's residents."

Niemes regularly works to educate parents and their children on how to make healthier choices when it comes to their diets.

"Those companies are going to respond to community demand and what we want to do is help and show that there is a change in the tide for wanting healthier choices," Wegley said. Wegley says they are doing their part by working directly with fringe food businesses to help them create healthier offerings for customers.

For many, it is no longer a want for healthier choices, but a need. It is a reality that hits home for Crosby.

"Deep," he said holding back tears. "That's my youngest, out of four girls. It's deep. I don't want her to have the health issues that me and mom were facing."

Niemes says there can be some hope gleaned from the survey, Subway made the list as the most prominent chain in the Queen City. "I'd much rather that be the number one choice," Niemes admitted. "I think other cities had Dunkin' Donuts , now there aren't very many healthy choices at Dunkin Donuts."

She also recognizes that many fast food restaurants are already taking the charge and working to offer healthier food options for their customers.

Even still, Niemes says there is long battle ahead to create a more nutritious palate along Cincinnati streets.

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