The brightly colored packet of chips, bottles of cola, instant noodles, chocolates are the first things children get attracted to whenever you step out of the house. Every mall, supermarket and even the smallest of shops in the remotest of places around us carry junk food in their stores.
To add to the package, TV commercials and peer pressure increase the attraction to junk food. As per the best nutritionist in Delhi, to ease our burden of having to handle cranky children or ease of availability, sometimes we too give in to buying them this unhealthy food. Slowly this becomes a habit and the children cannot do without junk food.
What is junk food by the way???
Junk food is what is described as deep-fried, processed or packaged food, loaded with additives and preservatives which have low nutritional value. These are not only addictive but also cause harm to our bodies. Not only chips and colas, but any kind of refined food which does not provide proper nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals are not healthy. Some food which we seem to buy fresh is also not as healthy, therefore food choices are important.
For example- Pizza, children love eating pizza, especially cheese pizza. It is majorly dough made of refined flour which is plain starch. It is layered with tomato sauce which if not prepared fresh may contain preservatives. Then it is loaded with cheese which is just a dollop of pure fat. With no vegetable added to it and just fat, the child is eating empty calories with nothing nutritious for the body to absorb.
How can we change the food preference?
Foods such as burgers, pizzas, chaat or bakery items, if not chosen wisely can fall in the junk food category. In a few words, choosing the right food wisely will make all the difference. Any junk food can be turned into healthy food with a little conscious effort and planning.
Firstly, initiating healthy eating from childhood creates a big impact on the child. If the child is fed on fresh food in early childhood, they develop a taste for these and don’t turn over to other fancy foods. Similarly, if we start giving them store brought foods from the start, they will not develop a liking to fresh foods and will depend mostly on store brought items to fend their hunger.
Young children mimic adults. This is another source where they learn to eat unhealthily. If we as adults eat unhealthily and expect our children to eat healthily, this will not happen. Children love to eat what they see on our plates, so it is a good decision to set the right examples for our child by filling our plates with the right kind of food.
Educating the child about the benefits of eating fresh if the child is a little grown-up also helps. We can list the benefits and show them why they should choose fresh food over junk food. We can also teach them to portion food in such a way that they can enjoy their favorite food but with healthier choices.
Another way children get junk food is a gift/bribe. In order to get them to finish their chores, we reward them with chocolates or chips which is not right. Rewarding them with extra playtime or their favorite hobby is a better option. Requesting family members to not give children any junk food as gifts will also make a big difference.
We usually tend to buy junk food when we are hungry. Our grocery list does not necessarily have any junk items present in it, but we tend to buy them if we are hungry. So, the trick to avoid this is to do grocery shopping after eating food. That way, there will be very little or no junk food present at home and children will start eating fruits or vegetables to curb their hunger.
How to substitute healthy food with unhealthy ones?
People have a very wrong perception of healthy food. For them, eating healthy simply means forgoing their favorite food and eating flavorless fruits and vegetables. Although this thought is slowly changing, it is important to educate them on why this change is necessary. Small changes in food choices today can make a healthy tomorrow.
Children are fussy eaters. They eat a very limited variety of food and there is very little scope to feed them the right food if they dislike it. Force-feeding is not helpful and an empty stomach is not what we would like to see. This is when we give in to what they want to eat.
Like mentioned earlier, introducing fresh foods is the initial approach. But, if the child is already used to eating a lot of unhealthy food, slow withdrawing and targeting towards eating healthy should be the main motto. Small changes can make a permanent effect. Some changes we can make are:
These are a few changes we can make to the junk food routine of children. Masking food to build their favorite food and substituting some foods can help feed them healthy without the hassle. Big and sudden changes are reversible but a small and slow approach will sustain this good habit for a long time. Remember, “A healthy mind stays in a Healthy Body”, therefore “Eat Healthy and Stay Healthy”!!!