“I WANT JUNK FOOD”: How children’s food choices comprise their long-term health“

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I want junk foods
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I want junk food”-revolted a little boy at the supermarket holding a huge packet of chips, while the mother stood there awing at her son’s cuteness.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-24 at 1.21.13 PM.jpegInstagram: @twinklebellani

Twinkle Bellani : Chief (Nutrition and Food Regulatory Affairs) at HlthiStyl

I was at the supermarket this Sunday to restock my kitchen, when I came across this little boy, roughly around 7 years old, aggressively searching for something to fill on his hungry soul. After the vigorous screening, he grabbed a huge packet of potato chips and a bar of chocolate and turned around to seek his mother’s approval. To my surprise, the mother just smiled, nodded her head in approval, and moved on to complete her purchase. The child started munching and within a fraction of minutes, whoosh! The chocolate bar was gone. Concerned on the child’s food choices and the consequences it would have on his health, I made up my mind to approach him and enlighten on his choices and the effect it would have on his health. I broke the ice between us with a friendly outlook, and at no time he was extremely comfortable in my company.

This is how the conversation went thereafter-

Me: How often do you consume chips, chocolates, coke, etc?

Kid: Umm, aunty I need them every day before going for tuition or playing

Me: Why don’t you try foods that will help you improve your health like fruits, a nut or fruit milkshake, some idlis, a chicken or vegetable wrap, etc instead?

Kid: Fruits (makes a disgusted face), eww who eats that? My friends will laugh at me

Me: are you aware of the health impacts these junk foods can have on your body? (Post this question, I could sense that the kid was annoyed at my rejection of his food choices)

Kid: “I WANT JUNK FOOD”, he angrily revolted, looking at his mother, who laughed awing her son’s cuteness. I was completely taken aback by the child’s reply and the mother’s casual and appreciative reaction to her son’s activity.

This made me ponder, -where are we heading to? Where are our children and where is our nation heading towards? Children are the foundation of our country’s future progress. If they are inadequately nourished it will reflect negatively on our country’s progress. While the world is fighting against issues like climatic change, environmental issues, water scarcity, and malnutrition, etc., is this another battle that we have to overcome? The battle against junk food and increased dependence on processed foods?

Nutrition Transition-What is it and what has lead to it?

The shifting of consumption patterns from primitive home-cooked meals to increased dependence on energy-dense, nutritionally poor, and heavily processed foods has led to a nutrition transition that has gained momentum in recent years. Rapid urbanization and subsequent changing lifestyles have compelled us so much to be busy that we have little time to rationalize what are we filling our tummies with! Although globalization has empowered us to tap into a wider pool, it has also greatly affected consumption patterns such that many have been pushed into the consumption of fancy high-calorie foods. The transitional wave has hit the children hard and with lifestyle changes, there has been an increase in junk food consumption among school-going children. This high consumption of junk plays a key role in increasing the incidence of obesity and micronutrient deficiencies among children. Junk foods, therefore, is a major contributor to “double malnutrition burden-under-nutrition and over-nutrition occurring simultaneously among the masses, especially children

Health impacts of junk food on your children.

Junk foods are appealing for a variety of factors such as taste, convenience, and pricing. When it comes to children, since they are unaware of the health consequences of junk foods, it may be especially appealing to them. Ingredients of junk food make it tasty and addictive for the children and regular consumption may lead to health issues.

Consumption of foods that is dense in sugar, saturated fat, salt, and calories leads to the early development of obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and impaired glucose tolerance among children. The high level of sugar and fat is not only unhealthy but also additive such that children are compelled to enter into a vicious cycle that makes it hard for them to choose healthier options over junkier ones. The energy density of such foods is twice the requirement for the children; with calories majorly being contributed from sugar, total and saturated fats, predisposing them to be overweight and ultimately obese. The commercially available processed foods are also high in trans-fat and cholesterol which increases the chances of future development of heart diseases, besides obesity.

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