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How to raise your kids in a junk food-free environment

All kids love junk food, from French fries to burgers to pizza. And in all honesty, we adults love them too. But we all are well-aware that these ultra-processed foods are bad for our bodies, especially our children’s.

According to Dr Suresh Kumar Panuganti, Lead Consultant – Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatrics, Yashoda Hospitals, Somajiguda, Hyderabad, the most commonly used or available unhealthy foods that children eat are broadly categorised as JUNCS (junk foods, ultra-processed foods, nutritionally inappropriate foods, caffeinated/carbonated drinks/beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages).

“Children should try and avoid JUNCS as much as possible or limit consumption of these foods at home and outdoors to not more than one serving per week — serving not exceeding 50% of total daily calorie requirement for that age,” he added.

Most of these junk foods are nutritionally inappropriate — it gives good taste but does not meet nutritional requirements. In addition to this, Dr Kumar noted that excessive salt can cause adverse effects on the kidney and heart, excessive sugar can cause obesity and diabetes as well, and the prolonged exposure of additives can cause cancer.

“High sugar content in carbonated and sweetened beverages can lead to dental caries, and contamination of these beverages can cause diarrhea, Typhoid fever, Hepatitis and also dreaded diseases like Leptospirosis, which cause liver and kidney failure. Over consumption of caffeinated drinks may cause psychiatric and sleep disturbances as well,” he said.

Here are some parenting tips to build a healthy diet for your children, according to Dr Kumar.

health food No screen-time while eating – watching screen while eating tends to result in excess intake. (Source: Getty Images/ Thinkstock)

It all starts early

Exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months of age. Weaning should start and continue with home-based foods that are easily available, easy to digest, sustainable and culturally acceptable.

Be mindful of the nutrition portions

Total calories in a healthy meal should be divided as 15–30% from fats, 10–15% from proteins, and 55–75% from carbohydrates. Free sugars should be <5% and there should not be any trans fat.

Recommended salt intake up to 12 months is <1 g salt, 1–3 years <2 g, 4–6 years <3 g, 7–10 years <5 g, and for ≥11 years 6 g per day.

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Decrease screen time

No screen-time while eating. Watching screen while eating tends to result in excess intake.

Avoid artifical foods

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No fruit juices for children less than 2 years of age, instead fresh fruits can be given. Avoid foods containing colours and preservatives.

Be a good role model

Involve your child in preparing and serving meal or snacks. Be a good role model for them as children are silent observers and will follow what you do.

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