How Junk Food Affects Children
Although your child’s nutritional needs vary according to his age, he needs a balance of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in order to grow and develop. The Building Blocks for a Healthy Future website states that an unhealthy diet puts your child at risk for health problems, while establishing healthy habits early can lead to better health in adulthood 2. It is important to understand how a diet consisting of junk food can potentially affect your child and how you can place more focus on healthy foods.
Sugar and Salt
Sugar supplies your child with energy. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org states that too much sugar intake over time leads to tooth decay and weight gain, and weight gain in childhood can result in bullying and low self-esteem 3. Steer your child toward natural sources of sugar, like fruit and 100-percent fruit juice, and limit her intake of foods with added sugar, like candy, baked goods and soft drinks. Junk food like fries and potato chips can also contain high levels of sodium. Increased sodium intake over time can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
Although fat is needed for development, too much fat can cause heart disease later in life. Monounsaturated fat, the fat your child needs for development, comes from healthy sources, like olives, avocados and nuts. Unhealthy fats, like saturated fat and trans fat, are found in junk foods like cheeseburgers and potato chips. HealthyChildren.org indicates that fat should make up less than 30 percent of your child’s calorie intake 3.
In addition to causing problems like weight gain and high blood pressure, filling up on junk food regularly can prevent your child from eating nutritious foods that he needs for proper growth and development. If he fills up on unhealthy foods, he will also be missing the nutrients from fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins that are necessary for energy, which can leave your child lethargic and unable to keep up with school or sports.
Although foods like butter, soda, salty snacks and desserts are fine in moderation, make sure your child limits her intake of junk food and focuses her diet primarily on lean meats, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy. Instead of snacks containing a lot of fat, salt and sugar, offer healthy snacks like string cheese or raw vegetables and dip. Additionally, you can set an example for your child by eating healthy and limiting your own intake of junk food.
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images