“Junk food” generally refers to foods that contribute lots of calories to our diets but little nutritional value. Of course, what’s considered “junk food” depends on whom you ask and how the particular food is made. For example – pizza is generally considered “junk food” but if it’s home-made – with a wholegrain base, tomato sauce, low fat cheese and lots of delicious vegetable toppings – it can be healthy!
One problem with “junk food” is that they’re low in satiation value – this means that we don’t tend to feel full; this may lead to overeating and further contributes to the growing obesity rates. Another problem is that “junk food” tends to replace other, more nutritious foods, for example – when people drink lots of cold drinks, they are usually not getting plenty water and when constantly snacking on chips and biscuits, they’re usually not eating heaps of fruits and vegetables
In general “junk food is:
- Low in fibre
- High in fat
- High in palatability (it tastes good)
- Calorie dense
- High in sugar
No matter how well we promote healthy eating, it can be difficult for any child to avoid the temptation of “junk food”.
Instead of eliminating “junk food” entirely, which tends to increase cravings even more, try substituting some healthier alternatives, some of the time.
|“Junk Food”||Healthier Alternative|
|French Fries||Oven baked chips|
|Ice cream||Sorbet, Low fat frozen yogurt (but be careful as some choices have more fat than ice cream)|
|Fried Chicken||Grilled chicken|
|Potato chips||Popcorn, nuts|
|Milkshakes||Fresh fruit smoothies|
|Sugary breakfast cereal||Wholegrain cereal|
It might be challenging to persuade your child to order a salad instead of a burger and chips, but you can steer them towards healthier options.
Some helpful tips to remember about fast food and restaurant dining:
- Avoid cold drinks – these are unnecessarily high in sugar, children should drink water or milk instead.
- Order a small portion of chips – remember if you are eating a burger, you are already eating 2 starch portions so perhaps only eat 1 half of the burger bun
- Order the kid’s meal with some substitutions – Children often love the kid’s meal more for the fun box and toys than for the food. Ask to substitute healthier choices for the cold drink (water/apple juice) and the chips, if possible.
At the end of the day, children are children and love “junk food” (as do most adults). We should try to not make “junk food” forbidden as this only makes it more desirable! Treats are essential and should be offered once a week.