If you ask any parent what is the biggest challenge they face concerning their child, the most common answer you are likely to get is - 'Ensuring that my kids eat the right food at the right time'. Children, usually, take time to get into the habit of eating healthily. However, the almost pervading presence of fast food in every lane, the visuals of lip-smacking food on TV commercials and in large billboards, restaurants and food joints promising free gifts with every meal - all this makes it hard for kids to resist the urge of indulging in high-calorie, fried food, pastries, chocolates etc.
Why Stay Away from Junk Food?
The first step is to teach your child all about the ill effects of eating junk food. Here are a few items you need to keep your little one away from-
• Added sugar and preservatives - Many of the junk foods you see in the market contain artificially added sugar, flavours, and colours - all of which makes the food taste delicious and look appealing. However, these sugary beverages contain carbohydrate and fructose, which are directly linked to weight gain.
• Harmful fats - Most of the fast food items including pizza, burgers, sandwiches and pasta are served with multiple layers of cheese. Some of the items - deep fried French fries and nachos, for instance – are served with mayonnaise as a separate dip to enhance the flavours. These foods are high in fat content, and when your child consumes these with extra cheese and mayo, it only adds to the harmful fats, which is certainly not good for the child’s health.
• Processed foods - Fast foods hardly contain fibrous elements and essential nutrients that energize the body. All they do is make you feel full with processed food items – canned bacon, sausages, white bread, refined flour, frozen meat – rendering them junk.
• Cakes, cookies and pasties - You may think that a cup of milk will do well to your kid’s health, but when served with cookies, all the nutritional values are wiped off. Cakes and cookies are high in calories and low in nutritional values, and come loaded with harmful ingredients such as refined flour and added sugar, sometimes with an ice frosting on top.
• Ice creams - Ice creams are hard to resist for kids. You may even feel like rewarding your child with one occasionally during the summer season. However, do look out for the consequences. One scoop of the sweetened, frozen junk contains approximately 207 calories! Imagine how much of these calories your kid must be taking during the hot summers.
The ill effects of junk food are many. If you do not monitor your child’s eating habits from an early age, he/she may have to face the consequences of the same. The following are some of the harmful effects of fast food on children-
How To Incorporate Healthy Eating Habits?
Whether you are a mother of a teen or a toddler, make sure that your kid inculcates the practice of eating healthy from childhood. Here is what you can do to improve nutrition and encourage healthful eating habits in children-
• Work vegetables and fruits into the daily routine - Even if your child makes faces seeing a bowlful of greens, make sure that he/she gets at least five servings of the same in a day. Fresh, seasonal fruits and leafy veggies are excellent sources of nutrients - they contain folic acid, vitamins, and dietary fibre.
• Stock up on healthy snacks - Kids love to munch on snacks but often end up choosing the wrong ones. Stock up on snacks that are nutritious and suit their taste buds - nuts and raisins, Greek yoghurt, peanut butter, flaxseeds, almonds and dark chocolates, celery sticks and kale chips. These are rich in vitamins, fibres, minerals and antioxidants. Eating these in moderation can benefit your child’s health in ways more than one.
• Serve them the right quantity of proteins - Protein is what helps your body repair and build tissues; it also works to produce hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals. It is extremely important that the body gets just enough proteins to continue functioning. Ensure that you serve your child the right quantity of protein – soymilk, cottage cheese, eggs, cereals, fish, poultry and lean meat, tofu, beans, legumes etc.
By modelling these practices and imbibing healthful eating habits in your kids, you can aid them to maintain normal growth and healthy body weight. Moreover, picking up these fine practices from a young age will help them keep up with a healthy lifestyle when they grow up.