Effects of Fast-foods and Snacking on Kids
The fast-food industry has been serving the United States for more than 6 decades now. During the 1960s and 70s the craze picked up and ever since then, there is no looking back for the fast-food industry. One of the biggest demographic of fast-food consumers are children. Now, its time we looked at the ill-effects of fast-food consumption among children.
Most of the chain fast-food companies offer what is known as highly processed or hyper-processed or ultra-processed food. These hyper-processed foods in fast-food chains are high in fats, sugar and salt content than an average meal cooked at home. And collectively, the fats, sugar and salt create a craving. The ‘craving’ for sugar, salt and fat can also be termed as ‘addiction’, although the fast-food industry doesn’t want to use this term for obvious reasons, they just call it ‘cravability’ or ‘snackability’.
It’s no wonder that fast-food restaurants spend millions of dollars every year only on marketing and promotional activities. While on one side, there is huge mounting evidence on the ill-effects of fast-food consumption in children and on the other, the people, especially the children who are going to the fast-food restaurants are increasing every year. This is a disturbing trend because of the fact that they are at high risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and liver diseases. This is not only a matter of concern for parents, but also for governments because every year the government spends hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money on preventable health diseases like the ones mentioned above in children. It’s not the matter of money that is being spent, but we have to carefully look at situations where these diseases affect the whole life ahead of the children.
According to one estimate, kids between the ages of 6 to 14 have fast-food meals at least once or twice a week and about 96% of school-going kids recognize Ronald McDonald, the mascot of McDonalds.
According to one study which measured the fast-food intake in children showed some startling facts. Children between the age group of 6 – 14, from all ethnicities, sex, who belonged to families with high disposable incomes, etc eat regularly in fast-food chains. And the results were that they had higher levels of calorie intake, higher fat, higher carbohydrates, added sugars, salt intake. Apart from this, these children also tended to have more sugar-laced soda and less fluids like water, milk, butter milk, etc and fruits and non-starchy vegetables which are high in fiber. Children’s sweet tooth is also another cause for childhood obesity. Most, confectioneries are laced with high amounts of sugar as well.
The tendency of fast-food eating children becoming obese is much higher than in children eating wholesome home cooked food which has less of grease, salt and sugar and which includes whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, fruits (excluding sweetened fruit juices), etc. The major risk that these children carry is obesity related diseases which include cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. This is not only true for children, but also in adolescents and teens who belonged to busy families. There is a high tendency of adolescents and teens eating outside of their home, mostly in fast-food restaurants. Other disturbing factors are that in the recent times, fast-food restaurants have targeted children by opening up franchises near schools and the availability of fast-food in school cafeterias.
Probably, one of the best steps you could take as a parent is to allow your child to eat in a fast-food restaurant, but in a limit. Not more than once a week. Rest of the days, a wholesome and balanced diet with lots of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, less salt, less fat, healthy protein intake are needed for a overall health of your child in the long run.
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