Fast foods are a wide range of easily prepared meals, and have gained in popularity with the rise of the increasingly hectic modern lifestyle. Inability to cook elaborate meals while according with the clockwork of daily life has resulted in the time-consuming 'family dinners' being confined to weekends, while the busy weekdays are disposed of via the likes of sandwiches, wraps and rolls.
Fast foods, per se, can be incredibly healthy meals, depending on the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the cook. However, the term has, in recent times, become almost synonymous with junk food, which is only appealing to the palate, loaded on unhealthy calories and has little or no nutritional value. While healthy fast foods, such as salads or soy burgers, are recommended for a wholesome daily diet, unhealthy fast foods (junk food), such as commercially sold burgers, aerated drinks, pastries and candy are harmful, and should be consumed in moderation. Children's appetite and taste -- notoriously difficult to control -- can be severely affected by continual consumption of junk foods. The calorie-filled junk foods lead to obesity, which aids and abets numerous, more serious diseases.
Ill Effects of Junk Food
Obesity passively promotes a sedentary lifestyle, since an obese child can't partake in physical activities as intensely as a healthy child. Embarrassment at one's own obesity can also force a child to become reclusive. The lack of regular exercise further increases obesity, and significantly increases the chances of the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Junk foods and aerated drinks, such as sodas, lead to increased levels of blood sugar in children. This increases the chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes, i.e., the condition of natural bodily production of insulin being unable to counter the amount of blood sugar in the body.
Type 2 diabetes increases the chances of heart diseases by up to 4 times and contributes significantly to damage to the kidneys, as well as increasing chances of dementia.
Saturated fats lead to high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is notorious for being the cause of various heart problems, and can cause major cardiac disorders.
Junk foods often contain high amounts of salts. Although they impart a mouth-watering, spicy flavor, an excess of sodium or potassium (which are irreplaceable components of salts, including sodium chloride -- table salt) is prime cause for an increase in blood pressure. Disorders regarding blood pressure can have a severe inhibitory effect on an individual's life.
Fresh fruits and vegetables supply vital nutrients and energy, which is required for the developing bodies of children. A deficiency of iron, for example, can lead to anemia. Anemia, combined with the overload of complex sugars and saturated fats found in any sample junk food, can lead to a weak and habitually lethargic child.
The virtually total absence of green (leafy) vegetables and fresh fruits in the diet causes a deficiency of macro- and micro-nutrient supplements in the body. This damages the body's immune system and leaves children susceptible to various diseases and ailments.
Deficiency of calcium damages the teeth, nails and bones, reducing bone density and increasing the chances of skeletal damage and tooth decay.
As stated earlier, fast food doesn't necessarily mean junk food. Salads, fruits (preferably fresh and whole/sliced, or else in the form of fresh fruit juice), nuts and non-processed cheese can make for healthy and tasty quick-snacks. Including more veggies and fruits in meals never hurts, although kids are likely to reject the relatively bland alternatives in favor of spicier junk foods, even if the blander options are the healthier ones. Habituating children to healthy foods without introducing junk foods from a young age is the most reliable and effective way to keep the kids off junk food, without having to admonish them. Studies have suggested that even heavy consumption of junk food by a pregnant woman can result in the child being predisposed to favor the taste.
Getting a pizza without the usual extra cheese would go a long way. Nobody can taste the extra cheese anyway!
Burgers can be ordered with a single patty instead of the usual double, and with extra lettuce (or coleslaw), tomatoes and onions.
Whole wheat bread contains much more fiber than the white counterpart, and thus aids digestion. Making (or ordering) sandwiches made from whole wheat bread is a healthier option.
Grilled, baked and roasted meats are a better option than the fried varieties. This is due to the absence of frying oil, which contains saturated fats. This also applies to other foods that are usually fried, but can be prepared without oil, such as potatoes.
Although soups are universally agreed to be one of the healthiest foods, cream adds to their calorie content, negating their benefits. Soups without cream are undoubtedly one of the healthiest and most filling foods.
Alternatives will help decrease adverse effects, even when resigned to giving in to your children's clamor for junk foods. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the craving for the spicy tastes is only natural, and banishing fast foods completely may only serve to fuel the craving. While junk foods are, without doubt, harmful if consumed continually, occasionally indulging in the sinful pleasure is fine. A parent-approved frequency of eating processed junk foods can also teach children the important lesson of moderation.