How to Reduce the Intake of Junk Food in Children
Many packaged and processed foods are marketed for children because they are tasty and easy to eat. However, these foods are high in sugar and fats, and low in nutritional value. It is important to teach your children to eat more balanced, whole foods and avoid junk food. These healthy eating habits will affect their physical, emotional and mental growth and development, and even their adult years.
Eliminate packaged and processed snack foods from your kitchen and home. Do not purchase junk foods such as chips, crackers, soda, candy, and frozen pizza and pastry snacks. Removing unhealthy but convenient junk food options will help you and your children make better food choices.
Stock your kitchen with healthy snack options that your children will enjoy. Some easy-to-prepare snacks include whole-wheat low-sodium crackers and low-fat cheese, nuts and dried fruit such as raisins, dried apricots and dates. Instead of soda or sugary juices, keep water bottles, homemade lemonade and sugar-free juices in the fridge. Freeze fresh juice, pureed fruit or yogurt to make frozen desserts instead of eating fat- and sugar-rich ice-cream.
Make fresh fruit more appealing to children by serving washed and cut apples, pears, peaches, apricots and other fruits with spreads such as peanut butter and jam. Prepare vegetables such as celery, cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers by slicing them into easy-to-eat fingers; serve with low-fat cream cheese, yogurt, hummus or other dips.
Cook healthy alternatives to junk food. For example, make baked fries and chicken nuggets at home instead of deep frying. Also try baking vegetables such as kale and yam slices to make healthy chips. Explain to your children that eating fast food and convenient, packaged foods is not healthy. Show them that it is easy and quick to make healthier choices.
Act as a healthy example. Do not consume junk food in front of your children. Let them see you eating balanced meals and snacks made from whole foods regularly.
- Base meals and snacks on the five main food groups -- carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vegetables and fruit -- but limit fatty and sugary foods.
- Stock up on healthy ingredients such as whole-wheat pastas, breads and brown rice to make nutritious meals for your children. These foods are high in essential fiber that is important for digestive health.
- Television advertisements can encourage unhealthy junk food cravings in your children. Restrict television viewing and explain to your children that these snack foods are not healthy to eat regularly.
- It can be difficult to make sure that your children eat balanced meals and snacks every day, and in some cases, children will not eat enough. School-age children need between 1,740 and 1,970 calories per day; it is important that these are not empty calories from junk food.
- A poor diet during childhood can lead to disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis or weak, brittle bones later in life.
- Your child requires three servings of calcium-rich food a day; snacks such as a cup of yogurt, a matchbox-size piece of cheese or a 150-milliliter glass of milk.
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