10 popular junk foods that are ruining your child's health | Health - Hindustan Times
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10 popular junk foods that are ruining your child's health

By, New Delhi
Aug 23, 2023 12:32 PM IST

From burger, pizza, sugary drinks to processed meats, here's a list of junk foods that your children should avoid as per nutritionists.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in a child's health and while parents are aware of this, they may not always be successful in implementing a diet which promotes holistic wellness for them. Kids are picky eaters and some of them do not like to experiment with their meals. Junk food is appealing to them for many reasons. The high salt, sugar and fat content in them promotes release of dopamine which makes them crave for such food more. Traditional foods like dal-chawal, roti-sabzi, and fruits are less attractive as they may not satisfy taste buds in the same way. (Also read: What happens when you eat momos every day; 6 health risks of overindulging in this street food)

The problem with junk foods like pizza, burger, chips is that they are devoid of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients that can support a child's physical and mental development(Unsplash)
The problem with junk foods like pizza, burger, chips is that they are devoid of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients that can support a child's physical and mental development(Unsplash)

The problem with junk foods like pizza, burger, chips is that they are devoid of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients that can support a child's physical and mental development. They may also have preservatives that can further damage health. Eating junk food several times a week can lead to nutritional deficiencies and increased risk of chronic diseases in children later in life.

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"Childhood obesity and related health problems have become an alarming concern in recent years. A significant contributor to this epidemic is the consumption of junk foods. These highly processed, calorie-dense, and nutritionally deficient foods have infiltrated our children's diets, jeopardising their overall health and well-being. As a parent, understanding which junk foods to limit or avoid can play a pivotal role in safeguarding your child's health," says Nutritionist Anupama Menon in an interview with HT Digital.

To combat these ill effects of junk food, it is important for parents to introduce a balanced diet that has essential food groups like high-fibre cereals, pulses, soya, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. This can be done by making interesting recipes out of the ingredients and not keeping junk food at home.

Nutrition has a profound impact on a child's cognitive well-being, immune system, metabolic health and other vital functions, says Soumyendu Ghosh, Consultant Dietitian & Lifestyle Counsellor, Golf View Healthcare & Research Institute.

"The allure of junk food looms large in today's fast-paced world. It's readily available, affordable, and often a quick fix for busy parents. Unfortunately, these foods are packed with cholesterol, excessive sugars, empty calories, high sodium content, artificial colours, preservatives, and lack essential nutrients. As a result, children, particularly the younger generation, are increasingly drawn to these unhealthy options, potentially jeopardizing their well-being," says Ghosh in an interview with HT Digital.

What happens when you child eats too much junk food

"The consequences of excessive junk food consumption are alarming. India is now at the forefront of child obesity, trailing only behind China and the United States. This epidemic has serious health implications, as most children with obesity are insulin resistant and susceptible to diabetes, PCOS, high cholesterol levels, and fatty liver disease. Moreover, regular consumption of junk food can impact a child's concentration levels, contributing to distractions and decreased focus. To safeguard our children's health, it's crucial to be mindful of the junk foods they consume," says Ghosh.

Here's a list of junk food that are slowly and surely affecting your child's health:

Ghosh suggests exclusion of the following foods from your child's meals:

1. Sugary breakfast cereals

Some cereals marketed to children are as unhealthy as eating cakes and pastries for breakfast. They are often laden with sugars and empty calories, offering minimal nutritional value. Careful scrutiny of ingredient labels is essential.

2. Instant noodles

These seemingly convenient meals can contain excessive sodium and lack essential nutrients. Their white noodles are low in dietary fibre, and the flavourings often contain harmful chemicals.

3. Potato chips

Chips, while delicious, can contain harmful substances like acrylamide, linked to cancer. Excessive consumption can lead to various health issues, including heart problems and high blood pressure.

4. Chicken nuggets or chicken fingers

These popular choices for children often contain numerous ingredients and are fried in oils with additives. Homemade versions using whole-grain breadcrumbs are a healthier alternative. It's vital to be aware of the ingredients in fast food, as some contain additives like Tertiary Butyl Hydroquinone (TBHQ), which can have adverse effects if consumed in excess. Dimethylpolysiloxane, another common additive, serves as an anti-foaming agent and is found not only in food but also in non-edible products.

Anupama Menon adds more junk foods to the list that your child should avoid eating excessively:

5. Sugary drinks

Sugary beverages like sodas, fruit juices, and energy drinks are loaded with added sugars and provide little to no nutritional value. They sometimes may even contain artificial sweeteners to enhance the taste and claim to be low calorie beverages. These drinks contribute to excessive calorie intake leading to weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Opt for water, milk, or natural fruit-infused water as healthier alternatives.

6. Fried foods

Fried food items like potato chips and French fries are high in unhealthy trans fats, sodium, and calories. These snacks not only contribute to weight gain but also increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension. Replace these with air-popped popcorn, baked sweet potato fries, or whole-grain crackers for a healthier crunch.

7. Candy and sweets

Candies, chocolates, and other sugary treats are a major source of empty calories, promoting weight gain and dental problems. Their rapid sugar spikes can lead to energy crashes and a preference for overly sweet foods. Encourage your child to enjoy fruits as a natural and nutritious way to satisfy their sweet tooth.

8. Processed meats

Sausages, hot dogs, ready-to-cook meat, frozen nuggets are highly processed meats containing preservatives, additives, and high levels of sodium. Regular consumption has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Opt for lean, unprocessed protein sources like grilled chicken, fish and meats that are freshly cut.

9. Packaged snack foods

Many packaged snack foods like cookies, crackers, and granola bars are often loaded with refined flours, sugars, and unhealthy fats. These foods lack essential nutrients and provide little satiety, leading to overconsumption. Choose whole-food snacks like fresh fruits, veggies with hummus, or homemade trail mix to keep your child energised and satisfied.

10. Burgers and pizzas

Fast food burgers and pizzas are typically high in saturated fats, sodium, and calories. Regular consumption can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of heart disease. Consider making homemade burgers with lean meats or plant-based patties and whole-grain pizza crust topped with veggies for a more nutritious alternative.

"As a parent, your role in shaping your child's eating habits is crucial for their long-term health. By identifying and minimising the consumption of these six junk foods, you can help protect your child from the negative consequences of poor dietary choices. Opting for nutrient-dense foods, fostering a positive relationship with whole foods, and providing education about the importance of balanced nutrition can go a long way in promoting your child's overall health and well-being. Remember, it's never too late to make positive changes that will positively impact your child's future," shares Menon.

"In this era of convenience, it's essential to prioritize our children's health by making informed dietary choices and limiting their exposure to junk food. Together, we can combat the rising tide of child obesity and ensure a healthier future," adds Ghosh.

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