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What Are Harmful Effects of Junk Food on Children's Health?

Nutrition & Food / Last Updated on Apr 05, 2023 / Vetted by Paramjeet Kaur
Junk foods and their effect on health

Junk foods are popular among children due to their taste, accessibility, and marketing strategies. However, the excessive consumption of junk food causes an imbalance in nutrients that negatively impacts a child’s health. This article describes the negative effects of junk food on children's health.

What Are Junk Foods?

Junk foods are energy-dense foods high in salt, sugar, and fat but have little or no nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. Most fast foods can be termed junk foods. Some common examples include chips, fries, soft drinks, ice cream, and chocolates.

Harmful Effects of Junk Food on Children's Health

Overeating junk foods can lead to the following effects:
  • Frequent consumption of foods high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar and low in other vital nutrients can lead to the early development of health problems in children.
  • The high calorie content of junk foods can cause unhealthy weight gain in children. Junk food and children's health are very closely related, so be alert.
  • Sugar in junk foods like cakes, soft drinks, and sweets provides empty calories with no nutritional benefits. Excessive sugar consumption can cause dental caries in children.
  • Soft drinks contain caffeine that can impair nerve and muscle functions with excessive intake.
  • Artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives in junk foods can cause allergic reactions like diarrhoea, hyperactivity, itching, rash, or swelling.
  • Junk food prepared in unhygienic conditions may be contaminated with germs, leading to infections in children.
  • Junk foods are low in dietary fibre, which can cause constipation.
  • Poor eating habits may also lead to type 2 diabetes in children.
  • Junk food can increase the risk of asthma and eczema in children.

Are There Any Long Term Effects of Eating Junk Food?

How does junk food affect children's health? Overconsumption of junk foods can have long-term effects on your child’s health. Here are some more negative effects of junk food on children's health:
  • Eating junk food can contribute to childhood obesity, and these children are likely to become obese adults.
  • Obese kids are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease at a younger age.
  • The fructose present in most soft drinks has toxic effects on the liver.
  • The high salt content in junk foods contributes to high blood pressure and related heart problems.
  • Some colouring agents in junk foods can increase the risk of cancer.
  • Saturated fatty acids in junk foods, like cookies, chips, and milk chocolate, can increase the chances of stroke and heart attack if consumed in excess.
  • Bakery products and deep-fried snacks are high in trans-fatty acids, which increase the bad cholesterol in the blood.
  • Research shows that, as of 2008, more than 50% of all deaths in India were due to obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

What Are Some Healthy Substitutes for Junk Foods?

Although you know that excessive junk food consumption is harmful, it isn’t easy to convince your children. Since young kids may not know the concept of a balanced diet and the kinds of foods that should be consumed or avoided, parents need to regulate the food intake of their children. The following foods can be great substitutes for junk food because of their low-calorie and high-nutrient content:
  • Salad dressings like lemon juice, olive oil, or mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Frozen yoghurt or frozen fruits instead of ice-cream.
  • Pasta using vegetables and tomato sauce instead of white sauce or cheese sauce.
  • Hung curd, curd, and home-made chutneys instead of cream or mayonnaise-based spreads.
  • Rice noodles or spaghetti instead of store-bought noodles or ramen.
  • Grilled, steamed, or stir-fried vegetables instead of creamy or cheesy vegetables.
  • Baked potatoes instead of French fries.
  • Whole grain bread instead of biscuits or garlic bread.
  • Grilled or roasted chicken instead of fried chicken.
  • Thin-crust vegetable pizza with less cheese instead of thick-crust cheesy pizza.
  • Home-made clear soups instead of cream soups
  • Home-made beverages like lemonade, aam panna, fruit-based shakes, smoothies instead of canned juices, sugary drinks or sugar-sweetened soda.

A diet containing excessive junk food can negatively affect your child’s body as they grow up. The negative effects of junk food on children's health are real. It is a parent’s responsibility to get their child to eat healthy foods. Always read nutritional labels to check for the amount of trans fats or saturated fats, sugar, and sodium when you buy ready foods. Take measures from an early age to develop healthy eating habits in your children that will help them throughout their lives.

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  1. National Institute of Nutrition ICMR. Dietary Guidelines for Indian-Manual [2021]
  2. Better Health Channel. Food Additives [2021]
  3. Stanford Children’s Health. Constipation in Children  [2021]
  4. Stanford Children’s Health. Lifestyle Changes can help kids Prevnt Type 2 Diabetes [2021]
  5. NIH. Low-Calorie, Lower-Fat Alternative Foods [2021]
  6. Fast-food alternatives.pdf [2021]
  7. BBC UK. How to make Junk Food less tempting to children.  [2021]

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