They’re attractively packaged, they’re tasty, and they’re everywhere. From burgers to chips, kids can’t seem to get enough of fast food and junk food. Find out why you should be concerned, and how you can get your kids to limit their intake of these low-nutrient foods.
The convenience of having food prepared and served in minutes, the attractive multi-million peso ad campaigns, and the gimmicky promotions have made fast food a part of pop culture.
Nearly every street corner has a fast-food restaurant that caters to our cravings for a hamburger, French fries, and fried chicken. But as their numbers rise, so do the weight of youngsters and adults. And you have to realize that excess weight is just one of the problems.
They’re energy dense foods.[pq]Since small amounts of fast food contain lots of calories, people tend to consume more energy than their bodies need, resulting in excess weight.[/pq]
In fact, a 15-year study by Dr. David Ludwig of the Children’s Hospital in Boston found that those who ate at fast-food outlets two or more times a week gained at least 10 pounds more than those who patronized the establishments less than once a week. They also had twice the chance of developing insulin resistance, a predictor of type 2-diabetes, which has been linked to obesity.
Junk food is also high in calories, specifically from a type of sugar called high-fructose corn syrup or just plain corn syrup. It is a cheaper substitute for refined sugar but is six times sweeter and packs plenty of calories.
They are high in salt. Taking in too much sodium may lead to water retention, high blood pressure, and kidney damage.
They are loaded with saturated fats. Hydrogenated oils, a staple ingredient in junk food and fast food, are a leading culprit in diseases associated with excess cholesterol, such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and heart problems. Just as notorious and frequently used is palm oil, which is surprisingly more saturated than hog lard.
They are packed with additives. Artificial colors, preservatives and other chemicals added to junk food may cause allergic reactions, behavioral problems, and learning difficulties.
Sugar also alters the brain’s biochemistry by evoking beta endorphin, a euphoria-inducing hormone similarly activated by morphine and heroin. Withdrawing from overdependence on sugar causes irritability and crankiness.
They offer poor nutritional quality. This is especially true with candies, and the like. Most of them consist primarily of the ‘not so good’ carbohydrates, such as starch, which increases sugar level in the blood.
They are highly addicting, and not just to the palate. Wisconsin University professor Dr. Ann Kelly discovered that a high-fat diet fed to lab rats triggered the release of opioids in the brain, the same way drugs such as morphine do.
In a different study, Dr. Sarah Leibowitz of Rockefeller University found that rats on a high-fat diet became more resistant to leptin, the hormone that signals satiety, causing the rats to eat more and more.
Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, author of The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Programme, believes that sugar also alters the brain’s biochemistry by evoking beta endorphin, a euphoria-inducing hormone similarly activated by morphine and heroin.[pq]Withdrawing from overdependence on sugar causes irritability and crankiness.[/pq]
A separate study by Bart Hoebel of Princeton University confirmed the same effects, this time in rats.
They replace healthy foods. When fat food and junk food fill up little tummies, there’s hardly any room left for nutritious alternatives, such as fruits and vegetables, which provide essential vitamins and minerals that kids need.
How to keep your kids away from too much fast/junk food
- Maintain a healthy diet yourself. Children learn their initial attitude toward food from their parents.
- Provide plenty of nutritious food in the house. Leaving a bowl of fruits on the dining table and storing ready-to-eat slices of fruits in see-through containers in the refrigerator make it easier for your kids to grab a healthy snack.
- Instead of giving your kids money for food, provide them with lunch and snacks that are delicious and nutritious.
- Do not use trips to fast food restaurants as treats or rewards. You do not want to reinforce the idea that fast food is special food.
- Limit the amount of junk food in your house. Do not completely ban them, though, otherwise your kids might binge on them behind your back.
- Talk to your kids about the effects of eating too much junk food and fast food. Kids will listen. When they do, it’s easier for them to adopt a more nutritious diet.