What is "junk food"?Usually, as parents when we think about the word ‘junk’, french fries, pizza, potato chips, candies or lollipops & nachos top the list. But what does junk food mean? Junk foods include foods high in salt/sugar or high in calories (basically known as empty calories not high in nutritional content like fiber, vitamins, minerals or protein). Instead of assuming that a particular snack is junk food, it can be helpful if we can spot them by looking at the food label which has:
- Any trans fat which if consumed excessively can send mixed signals to the brain making it difficult to process how hungry you are which could lead to overeating.
- If more than 35% of calories are from sugar. Also do watch out if a particular juice or snack is made with 100% fruit and that there is no added sugar.
- If that snack has more than 200mg per serving for sodium (salt).
- Presence of high fructose corn syrup. Eg breakfast cereal.
- If the snacks has presence of more than 200 calories per servings.
- Presence of more than 10% of calories from saturated fats.
Which Junk Foods Should We Avoid?
1. Microwave Popcorn - Why is popcorn harmful to health?In order to save our time or to give a quick snack when our kids are hungry on a play-date, the first thing any mother does is take refuge to easy-to-make 2-minute popcorn sachet. This could be harmful since they contain a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA that could trigger postponed puberty, cancer, thyroid and high cholesterol in kids.
2. Packaged juices or soda pop - Why should you avoid packaged juices?These juices may quench your child’s thirst on a sunny afternoon, but may also later cause tooth decay, caries or cavities along with the high risk of obesity and diabetes in kids. They lack fiber and vitamins. Instead try giving them homemade lemon water where sugar can be replaced by jaggery which gives iron so the sugar content is less. You could also opt for a fresh coconut water to keep your kids hydrated.
3. Candies and lollipops - Why are candies harmful for children?Colorful and yummy looking, these adorable and “universally-loved-by-all” candies come with loads of sugar and artificial flavors and colors. Do we still need to mention dental caries, tooth decay and cough? What you may not know is, this could lead to breathlessness or uneasiness in breathing and definitely among the 14 Junk Foods You Should Definitely Avoid & Why!
4. Chicken nuggets - Why is it tasty but not healthy?Though it is suggested that non vegetarian food can make your kids healthy, there are some snacks which are best avoided. Chicken nuggets albeit tasty, are packed with sodium, fat, less nutrients and more calories triggering risk of heart disease and obesity in kids. The best option is to opt for grilled chicken breast at home and at restaurants.
5. French Fries - Shocking fact about french fries!Ever wondered why are French fries so crispy & crunchy at your favourite fast food restaurant. But the same simple recipe doesn’t work well at home? From age 1-101 years, the most loved snack, french fries are also harmful since they are high in fat and sodium and also contain empty calories leading to obesity and heart disease. Instead try baking potatoes or even frying them in less oil at home. The ones made at fast food joint may not necessarily use potatoes as their ingredients or may just play a little role in your delicious pack of fries. These contain, Hydrogenated Soybean oil, TBHQ – a type of phenol and Dimethylpolysiloxane – also known to make adhesives and cosmetics.
6. Frozen food or canned food - Why should you consume only locally grown foods?Celebrity endorsed products lure us and we are tempted to buy them! Frozen food though delicious and filling contains bisphenol-A or BPA which is known to cause childhood asthma, obesity, diabetes, liver problems, thyroid dysfunction and reproductive changes. Opt for fresh vegetables, fruits which are locally grown. (Also highly recommended by Dietician Rujutha Diwekar – remember how Kareena Kapoor Khan rose to fame for her Size Zero figure?)
7. Burgers - How many calories does a burgerMost loved and eaten, burgers are known to be high calorie foods. A burger containing mayonnaise may consist of 942 calories and add in French fries with a soft drink it could add up to 490 whooping calories. They are also known to be in high dietary cholesterol, saturated fats and high sodium leading to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
8. Sugar cereals - Breakfast cerealIf you thought that substituting your little one’s breakfast – dahi-paratha or idly-sambar with cereals is a healthy option you are wrong. It contains loads of sugar and processed ingredients with some corn and oats as an added ingredient. Instead opt for whole grain cereals which are rich in nutritional content giving your child enough vitamins and minerals.
9. Processed Meat -A big ‘no’ when it comes to giving processed meat which you thought was healthy for your children. Processed meat maybe tasty but they pose risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. This may include salamis, sausages, bologna or hot dogs. Home cooked meat is preferable any day.
10. Packaged food - Why are packaged foods bad for health?Why are "Packaged Foods" among the Top5 "14 Junk Foods You Should Definitely Avoid & Why!" Similar to frozen food, packaged food such as noodles, pasta, macaroni can have high content of sodium and consist of enriched flour which lack in fiber and essential nutrients. Instead try making whole grain pasta and add in some veggies to make it a yummy delicious meal. Even better, ditch packaged food!
11. Vanilla/raspberry/strawberry artificial flavoringIt may sound disgusting but latest research indicates that your favorite dessert may just have beaver excretion! Yes you read it right! Beaver secrete excretion called castoreum has been used extensively in food and perfumes for a long time. How can beaver’s secretion and anal smell so good? It’s because beavers have a unique diet of leaves and bark! Now you know why they smell and taste so yummy!
12. Peanut Butter - Shocking fact about peanut butter!Your yummy peanut butter may not appear to look delicious after you read this. In a half cup of peanut butter, you will find at least find one rodent hair (on an average). You believe it or not!
13. Processed CheeseIf you thought eating cheese was healthy think again! Any cheese substance that says, ‘pasteurized’ may include additives, chemicals and flavorings that take up to 49 percent of the total product. Instead look for organic groceries or supermarkets that sell real, fresh cheese. A good reason to head to Britain to relish freshly made cheese! :)
14. Fast food saladsVegetables are fresh and healthy to eat if we cut them and have it immediately. The same isn’t the case with fast food joints who make this dish. To ensure crispiness and freshness, these salads are packed with Propylene Glycerol – a chemical found in antifreeze and which can also cause eye and skin irritation. Now we know how the salads remain fresh even after 2 hours on a buffet table.
Megha Patni is from Indore and is a mother to two adorable tykes. Apart from writing about parenting, Megha also writes stories for children and makes homemade chocolates. Currently she is also working on her first book.