Everything You Need to Know about Junk Food for Your Kids

Health effects of junk food and healthy ways to replace them

Most children take an instant liking to processed, unhealthy foods. There is almost a natural attraction to foods that are sugary, salty, or loaded with fats. That is simply because these foods taste good and are easily available these days. The problem is that these foods are far from ideal for the health of your child, as they lack essential nutrients and only add on to the calorie intake. So, it is important to understand more about these unhealthy snacks ways to avoid them.

What are unhealthy, packaged foods?

Any food or drink that has very little or no nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fibre), but lots of calories, saturated fat, and added sugar and salt. These foods are not needed by the body and hence should always be consumed in moderation or on special occasions.

Common unhealthy foods:

  • Foods that are made of excess sugar and refined flour, like doughnuts, Indian fried snacks, sweets, etc., which are some major causes of obesity
  • Foods containing excess salt are also considered unhealthy such as french fries, chips, canned foods, and cured meats like salamis, sausages and bacon. These are major contributors to high blood pressure.
  • Foods loaded with fats and hydrogenated oils like fried snacks, cookies, muffins, etc., which clog the arteries and can lead to major health problems.
  • Common Indian snacks like vada, samosa, kachori, which are deep fried in oils or vanaspati ghee.

Health effects of these foods on kids:

  • Regular consumption of these foods can lead to lack of concentration, a feeling of tiredness at all times, and insufficient sleep.
  • Eating too many sugary products can affect dental hygiene and also cause tooth decay and cavities.
  • Long term consumption of unhealthy, high-calorie snacks can increase your child’s risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of cancer.
  • Eating excessive amounts of unhealthy foods can also lead to many nutritional deficiencies. These foods contain artificial colours and preservatives, which should be consumed in a regulated manner.

Tips to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods:

Due to their easy availability and convenience, these unhealthy snacks are fast replacing natural and nutritional foods in many households. However, to ensure your child’s health and development, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Noodles and pastas are every kid’s favourite and are usually prepared using refined flour. Substitute these with whole-wheat pasta or noodles, and add lots of vegetables to make the meal healthier.
  • Avoid the excess consumption of artificial preservatives, prepare sauces at home.
  • For sweet cravings, milk-based and homemade desserts with less sugar are a wonderful solution. Kheer, payasam and custard can be given to kids, and garnished with dry fruits or chopped fresh fruits, for natural sweetness.
  • Popcorn popped at home can be given as a snack.
  • Choose grilling, baking, steaming and boiling methods for cooking meats, fishes and veggies, over deep-frying. This will minimise the use of saturated fats and oils.
  • Prepare light meals. For example, serve sprout fillings instead of only potato fillings. Opt for makhanas instead of chips. Encourage your kids to have puffed rice instead of bhujia. Tandoori chicken can be enjoyed instead of butter chicken, if you wish to keep the fat intake low.

Completely banning your kids from eating unhealthy snacks foods may not be the right move, it will only intensify their cravings. Instead, try and satisfy their cravings by giving them healthier but tasty substitutes. Innovation is always the key!