Children Eating Junk Food
It used to be that all nutritional problems were caused by inadequate intakes of some particular vitamins and minerals that resulted in nutritional deficiencies such as rachitic, scurvy, and beriberi. Today nutritional problems are caused by the appearance of junk and fast food that revealed strong links between nutrition and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Nowadays for us eating is not only satisfying the physical needs of our body, it is more a social, business, family event, and an act of pleasure that goes far beyond the consuming of the necessary nutrients to maintain life (Frazo,1999, p. 4).
Within the last couple of decades, eating out has become a routine, whereas it used to be a treat. The average American eats out three to four times a week, if not more – and eating out, of course, means consuming more fat. The explanation to such an often tendency to go out for dinner and not eat in are obvious: more women work nowadays, the income of families is more flexible, the households are smaller, however the effect this has had on the life of the people is alarming indeed (Frazo, 1999, p.3).
Of course, such a disorder as obesity existed in the twentieth century, and two centuries ago, so it cannot be said that obesity is a new problem. However, the number of people who are overweight today is terrifying. What is even more frightening is that today “obesity” and “losing weight” problems do not only concern adults but also children.
Today fast food consumption is so entrenched, that healthy eating for children becomes near impossible (Maddock, 2005, p. 135). Everywhere children go they face the propaganda of junk eating, that spreads the idea of being big, not specifying how bad this is for you. For example, let’s take a look at the menu of the biggest fast food restaurants: Big Mac at McDonald’s, Extreme Gulp at the 7-Eleven, Biggie Fries at Wendy’s, and the Whopper at Burger King… What kind of ideas do these names give to children, the idea of being big and fat, and not fit and healthy?
Children are also surrounded by numerous commercials for snack cakes, burgers, pastries, candy, ice cream, potato chips, etc. which come on in the afternoons during television shows and gear towards them. In addition to that they find the advertisements in magazines, newspapers, as well as on billboards when driving. No matter what grocery store the children go in, they find more sweet and salty products than one can ever imagine. There are so many kinds of chocolate, cookies, chips cakes, pretzels and other snack foods to choose from, that it is easy to see how they take over beans and fruit. Plus, what is alarming is that the snacks taste good indeed.
Today most Middle Schools, Highs Schools and even the Elementary Schools have vending machines for soft drinks as well as for junk food (Brownell, 2004, p. 134). Also, the lunch at most schools consists of fattening, fried food, with no, or very little, amount of vegetables and fruit. However, the food industries do not stop only on placing the vending machines in the school buildings; they also help schools do fundraisers selling their products. It is already a good tradition to sell cheap proscar no prescription candy bars to raise money for the school. Yes, the fundraising seems beneficial for the school and the candy bars help smooth over the long school day. Still, the problem is, the more junk food there is in school, the less students will want to eat food that is healthy. As the author of the book Fat Fight (2004) Brownell puts it, “if given a choice between fruit or chocolate, candy, ice cream, and chips, junk food will always win out. The problem is, students normally only choose healthy foods when unhealthy foods are not available as competition” (p.147).
Today the harmful effects of “junk food” or “fast food” on children are coming into light. Thus the government is trying to persuade healthier eating habits at schools. However, the current research shows that healthy eating habits need to start during the fetal life of a child and not during his/her Junior High School years. Of course, insisting upon giving children better school lunches is a good idea, nevertheless more needs to be done to “raise the awareness” of importance of healthy eating for pregnant women (British Journal of Nutrition, 2007).
It is rather hard to inure children to eat healthy. This is partly because some children think of eating healthy as boring and tasteless, and because most of the commercial ads they see promote foods high in fat and sugar and only a small percentage of food advertising is done for fruits and vegetables. Consequently if there was more dietary education, more and more children would find eating healthy to be pleasant and delicious. Another problem with teaching children to eat healthy is that it is very hard to compete with junk and fast food meals. They are salty, fatty, but served quickly, in a bright place, moreover, they come with toys! However, children must be taught that in such places where the food seems to be wonderful and delicious they miss out on very important nutrients (Greene, 2001).
The time for change has come. If we want our children to be healthy and not grow up to be obese and suffer from short breath and varicose veins changes should be implemented. The vending machines at schools should dispense fresh fruits, vegetables and milk, instead of soft drinks and fatty snacks. As well as more attention should be paid to healthy education. Finally, families should start the policy of healthy eating at their homes. It is not difficult to get most children to eat well, a good example should just be set, to make mealtimes fun and refuse to let food become a battleground with choosy and not healthy eaters.
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