From the ancient age till now, food habits have undergone millions of changes. Our ancestors ate raw and unprocessed foods and today we eat ready to eat foods which get cooked at the hit of button. The trend to eat junk and processed food has cropped up in the past few years. And amongst all the age groups, it is the teenage group that is following this trend religiously. Junk foods are nothing but those which only have high amount of salt, sugar, fat and refined flour.
Any food that tickles your taste buds and the thought of it waters your mouth is the one which actually has no vitamins, minerals or fiber and is extremely high in calories. A few of your junk foods include pizzas, burgers, French fries, vada pav, candies, colas, chips, chaat and the list never ends.
Why do teenagers depend on junk food?
A host of reasons affect a teenagerâ€™s choice and attracts them towards junk food. Letâ€™s understand a few of them:
- Junk foods are far tastier and lip smacking than the healthy version of our Indian foods.
- Easy availability of junk foods at every nook and corner. Infact every food store stocks up variety of junk foods.
- Inexpensive and pocket friendly foods items available all over. This helps teenagers to save their pocket money.
- Media source likes advertisements on TV, paper, magazines, hoardings etc. makes it easy for the child to follow up with the new arrivals in the market.
- Increase in the number of restaurants and fast food joints that serve greasy and spicy dishes.
- School and college canteen serving junk like vada pav, noodles, samosa etc. which is easily accessible and time saving for the child as they get a short snack break of 15 minutes.
- Parents not inculcating healthy habits from childhood and giving in to the childâ€™s demands for chips, biscuits, burgers etc. This makes it difficult for the child to avoid junk food in teenage years.
- Lack of awareness creation by parents and teachers among the children about the ill effects of poor food habits in later years.
- Working parents who do not have time to cook healthy foods for their children due to which they depend on outside foods.
- Increase in socializing, parties and get-together which expose them to unhealthy foods.
Effects of junk foods on teenagerâ€™s health:
If you but a brand new car and run it on cheap, low quality fuel, its performance is definitely going to be compromised. Similarly adolescence/ teenage is a period of rapid mental and physical development which calls for good nutrients, a healthy balanced lifestyle and food habits which if not fulfilled a little more than a few health issues:
- Obesity: it is very obvious that calorie loaded junk foods increase the chances of getting obese in early years which also increase the fat % and chances of other health problems.
- Heart problems: junk food is extremely high in saturated fats which can increase blood cholesterol and accumulation of fat in the arteries leading to increased chances of mid-life heart attacks.
- Hypertension: Since these foods are also loaded with salt, the chances of increase in blood pressure are quite high as salts cause water retention. This can then lead to heart attack/ stroke.
- Type 2 diabetes: obesity can lead to insulin resistance. Thus we see young overweight people with borderline diabetes and sometimes with very high sugar levels.
- Osteoporosis: Calcium is very essential for the teenagers bone development and muscular actions. Junk foods are very low in calcium, so over dependence on these foods do not fulfill the teenagerâ€™s calcium needs. This can make their boned porous in the later years and increase chances of osteoporosis.
- Skin problems: Teenage is the phase when lot of hormonal changes takes place. If not taken good care of, your skin can breakout into acne and pimples make you look dull and pale. Especially high fatty foods clog your pores and increase the risk of breakouts.
- Hair problems: hair need good nutrients like protein, biotin etc for their nourishment. Junk food lack in proteins and other essential nutrients which can lead to hair fall, early balding, scanty hair, early graying etc.
- Constipation: refined foods lack fiber due to which 7 out of 10 people face constipation and indigestion problems. An inactive lifestyle adds to the problem.
- Acidity: junk foods are acidic foods which increase the stomach acids and can cause heartburn and discomfort.
- Poor concentration: clearly junk foods lack nutrients which are required for the brain and other intellectual development. This leads to a poor concentration span by the child as it makes them more lethargic and sleepy. They also have poor focus and attention span.
- Mood swings: foods loaded with sugar bring about a high-low in the blood sugar levels which increases sugar cravings again and makes the person irritable and edgy.
- Dental problems: junk foods like sweets, candies, colas etc can cause tooth decay and increase chances of cavities in their teeth.
- Blood issues: junk foods are low in iron which can reduce blood hemoglobin levels which can be a cause of anemia. This can make the skin, nails, hair weak as hemoglobin is an oxygen supplier to all the body parts.
- Pcod in women: poor food habits and lack of exercise is the major cause of polycytic ovarian disorder in teenage girls these days. Many college going girls suffer from PCOD.
Junk foods lack the essential nutrients for their healthy reproductive system.
How can we bring about a change?
Parents play a very important role in shaping the childâ€™s habits and mindset regarding all aspects or their life. The child particularly follows the parents eating habits, so the parents have to make an extra effort to follow healthy habits and influence their child towards it. How can parents change the childâ€™s habits?
- Take your child to a dietician so that she can explain them about the ill effects of junk foods on their health and personal and professional growth.
- Do not stock junk food in your fridge and cupboards. Make sure you keep fruits, nuts, salads, dry roasted snacks all around rather than chips, aerated drinks etc.
- Insist the child eats health breakfast from home like cereals, fruits, nuts, sandwiches etc. so that he doesnâ€™t binge on junk foods due to hunger pangs.
- Even if you are a working mother, make sure you cook or make some arrangement for healthy lunch options for your child to avoid outside eating.
- Tell your child to opt for salads and soups before starting their meal especially when they are eating out.
- Insist your children to meet their friends at a food joint that serves healthy salads, sandwiches, baked foods rather than coffee shops and fast food joints.
- Cook low fat healthy food options at home for example brown rice biryani, whole wheat burgers, oats dosa, whole wheat frankies, fruit yogurt, low fat pastas etc so that the child does not miss junk food. Dal, sabji, roti etc is a must but try introducing variety to avoid monotony. Bring a healthy twist to a boring routine.
- Talk to the school committee to change their canteen food options to healthier ones.
How can teenagers change their habits?
- Consider food as an investment for healthy years in your adulthood.
- Include lot of fiber in your diet like fruits, nuts, raw salads, brown rice, multigrain etc.
- 1-2 junk meals in a week is permissible. But try to eat all the other meals in a healthy fashion.
- Carry small meals with you in your bag like apples, almonds, chana kurmura/ khakra/ peanuts etc.
- Make sure you have salads prior lunch and dinner to help eliminate toxins and junk from your body.
- Drink healthy drinks like green tea, jaljeera, fresh lime water instead of black and white aerated drinks. You can also opt for fresh juices and coconut water.
- Exercise daily as it is proven that exercise increases self consciousness and reduces appetite and attraction towards junk food.
In this age you cannot exempt junk food completely from a teenagerâ€™s diet but reducing the frequency and creating awareness is imperative. A little junk here and there would not hurt.
Moderation is the key to a good and healthy life ahead.