How does fast food contribute to obesity in children? There are health issues for children who eat fast food routinely. Find out how you can change your child’s diet for the better!
Obesity in children is on the rise. Unfortunately, the fast-food industry is there to stimulate it. With busy parents and the availability of junk-food options, children would rather eat out than at home.
Most junk food restaurants use flavor enhancers to make their dishes more appealing. This makes fast food taste better than healthier versions, especially for kids. These flavor enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), can also cause allergies.
Children and Fast Food
Food allergy affects 2.5% of the global population and is more prominent in children. A 2019 study confirms that there’s a correlation between fast food consumption and allergies in children, specifically the AGEs—proteins or lipids usually present in processed food.
Health Issues Related to Junk Food
So, what are the effects of obesity in children? Children who eat fast food tend to have less energy and are unable to focus. Sugar and the lack of proper nutrient content deplete energy levels.
According to a 2014 study, fast food lacks nutrients essential for cognitive development, resulting in children having a poor concentration in school and causing lower academic performance. Also, children who are less physically active can miss certain social events and feel left out, which can affect their confidence.
The fast-food consumption in the early years sets the foundations for the eating habits of children throughout their whole life. The risk of obesity is, therefore, present from a young age. Children who are accustomed to the addictive types of food are less likely to switch to healthier options later in life.
Obesity in children leads to chronic illnesses. Since obese children are prone to a sedentary lifestyle, they have increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep disorders, fatty liver, potential bone fractures, and joint issues.
The mental health of obese children is also at stake. There are issues such as low self-esteem, learning problems, and depression. Overweight children often get teased or even bullied in school, which is another burden on their shoulders.
How to Reduce Obesity in Children
Aside from the fact that fast food is tasty and available, it’s cheaper than healthier options. This comes in handy for low-income families, which is precisely why a lower income is related to obesity. Plus, portions of junk food are usually large, which makes a child feel fuller.
Even though it might seem impossible to avoid junk food altogether, reaching a compromise is certainly possible. After all, if your child is generally healthy, there’s nothing wrong with going to a fast-food restaurant from time to time or ordering fast food. But if there’s a need to work on changing your child’s habits, there are plenty of ways to do so. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
Change Eating Habits
Your children learn by copying your behavior. As the authority, you should show them how to eat, among other things. Having a family meal is a great way to bond with your child and to show them that home-cooked meals can be tasty. Fill your plates with balanced nutrients and enjoy a family atmosphere.
Eliminate Unhealthy Snacks
Keep unhealthy snacks out of the house. If you buy them, you should know that your kid will be the first to eat them. Instead, offer your child whole-grain granola bars, fruits, low-fat yogurt, and other healthier options.
Serve the Rainbow
Make food more appealing. We eat with our eyes first. So you can try using cookie cutters to cut fruits and veggies into some lovely shapes and serve them to your children. Incorporate as many colors and different tastes as possible. Don’t forget to add nuts for extra nutrients.
Get a Helper in the Kitchen
Include your child in the kitchen. Let your kids watch while you cook, and if they’re old enough, assign some simple tasks to them. Make them feel important while helping you. That will show them that home-cooked meals are fun and will set the foundation for their future food preferences.
Drinks might be challenging at first. When it comes to sweetened beverages, your kid is also used to the strong taste, so you’ll have to make them extra enjoyable. If you dilute the drinks, use seltzer for an upgrade or a lemon juice to add more flavor. Don’t forget to offer the water first.
Physical Activity for Improved Fitness
Another problem with children who consume fast foods is the lack of physical activity. Since your child is still developing, you need to include it in a daily routine.
- Set an example
- Make a schedule
- Organize an activity
- Make it fun
Children and Fast food
Having a child who eats only fast food can cause a lot of issues. It can also be challenging to devote finances and time to creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself and your child. With proper knowledge and will, you’ll be able to liberate your child from addictive taste enhancers and lead them down the path to a healthier future.