Junk food consumption by today’s young generation
Posted on February 22nd, 2015

Dr Hector Perera         London

Most of the junk food are eaten by children, more than 60 per cent regularly eat crisps after school, with only one in four snacking on healthy food such as fruit. According to research, 42 per cent of children say they regularly eat biscuits as a snack, while 37 per cent cite chocolate as their most frequent treat.

“The way these foods are marketed and the increasing amount of money children have to spend means this trend will continue, despite increased warnings over health.  Kath Dalmeny from the Food Commission, a consumer food watchdog, said advertisers were targeting children more than ever.

She said: “It is very cynical but absolutely true that these junk food companies target children. And, because children decide what they buy, parents have little control.

“Children have more pocket money now and TV advertising means many are encouraged to buy unhealthy foods. In shops, many snacks are placed at children’s eye height to encourage them to buy.

The British Prime Minister has admitted, in a leaked letter to Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, that attempts to increase fitness had not done enough to encourage more people to take up sport. Statistics released last week show that one in five 15-year-olds in school children in Britain is now obese. Health officials predict rates of heart disease and diabetes will soar in the coming years as a result.

 Snacks marketed to children

Most shops offer a vast range of such foods near the checkout to encourage both adults and children to make purchases on impulse.

Advertisers are aware that children have more pocket money per week to spend on snacks and sweets, and there is evidence that the majority of adverts shown during children’s television programmes are for foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

I am sure you have heard this many times but the question is do they care. The recommended daily salt intake for adults is five grams but that limit can be exceeded by eating just one large chocolate bar. Sugar makes up 16 per cent and saturated fat 14 per cent of British children’s daily diet. The recommended proportions for both sugar and saturated fats are 10 per cent of total calorie intake.

Last year Haribo re-launched its Football Mix sweets to coincide with the football World Cup in a bid to grab the attention of both young and old consumers.

Walkers, however, rejected accusations that it is damaging children’s health. “We support the encouragement of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, “Contrary to some beliefs, savoury snacks are a valuable source of nutrients and energy for active children and adults, and can be enjoyed within a sensible, balanced diet. Companies that target children in their advertising are aware of the falling birth rate in Britain and the damage it could do to their business. The report suggests this will ” reinforce the need for manufacturers to encourage a higher spend per child if they are to maintain a healthy market in the long term.

Eating habits of young generation

Due to various reasons such as professional commitments, multi-tasking, time restrictions, staying away from parents, laziness, fatigue and many other factors the eating habits have changed, people prefer junk food outside food which only satiates the immediate need of the hungry stomach. However, the long term effects of such food are indeed harmful to our body which may lead to; Obesity, Heart diseases, Blood Pressure, Kidney problems and Blood Sugar imbalance.

The current lifestyle, especially of young IT people or those who spend average 8-10 hrs glued to a computer in the AC environs of an office, stressed with the work load is challenging if one is not regular with exercise. Coupled with these, junk food and carbonated drinks causes more harm to their body.

What exactly is Junk Food?

Processed foods that have no nutritional values and need little or no preparation are known as junk foods. They are normally available as packaged snacks. For years, junk food, with their attractive colours, tickle the taste buds, and are irresistible to the young and old alike, with their wonderful array of varieties and flavour. This food however filled with empty calories and zero nutritional value offers next to nothing in terms of health benefits with absolutely no value for money. Due to changes in the lifestyle, eating junk food has now become a habit almost an addiction, (if allowed to exaggerate a bit) leading to childhood obesity and hordes of other dietary problems, which are bothering the entire world. Many foods such as hamburgers, pizza, and tacos can be considered either healthy or junk food depending on their ingredients and preparation methods. Highly processed food items usually fall under the junk food category.

Different types of Junk Food

It is impossible to eliminate the indulgence of junk food due to variety of reasons but we can resolve to minimize their intake and if possible avoid some which produce harmful effects on the body no matter how irresistible delicacies they are. Following delicacies fall under the junk food category:

Pizza, Burgers, Deep Fried Stuff, Breakfast Cereals (covered with unhealthy sugars), Candies, Donuts, Carbonated Beverages, Pastries and Cakes (having trans-fat, chocolate, sugar and eggs), Ice creams (rich in sugar and fat), Instant Noodles (covered with wax and lacking essential proteins, vitamins, fibre and minerals). I wonder how much of these are in Sri Lanka young generation’s daily consumption. Unlike in the past these are available especially in city areas.

The health effects of Junk Food
Fast foods and junk foods are high in fat, salt that is sodium and sugar, which can lead to obesity and a range of attendant health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. When someone eats junk foods, might be feeling chronically fatigued and lack of energy one needs to complete daily tasks. The high levels of sugar in junk food puts your metabolism under stress that means when you eat refined sugar, your pancreas tends to secretes high amounts of insulin to prevent a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels. Some people eat junk food followed by ice cream and wash down with fizzy drinks that again has high levels of sugar. How would the pancreas manage this amount of sugar?
Sometimes after eating junk food, your blood sugar levels will drop suddenly, leaving you feeling grumpy, fatigued and craving for more sugar as these foods don’t contain adequate amounts of proteins and good carbohydrates. As you know junk food has large amounts of fat then one can gain weight and become obese leading to further health complications like heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. The high levels of trans-fatty acids found in many junk foods and fast foods can lead to fatty liver deposits, which, over time, can cause liver dysfunction and disease. It can lead to mood swings and constipation, and lower your energy levels so that you lack interest in the exercise you need to burn off those extra calories.

Would you read the nutritional values from the labels?
It is advisable to check the sodium, sugar, cholesterol and fibre content besides the amount of calories and fat in the product. The doctors and nutritionists advice to read the food labels but I have my doubts do we read these things in a supermarket. If the price is right, they are dumped in the shopping trolley then take them home. You heard that food is an essential element for our good health and plays a pivotal role for sustenance and over all well-being but do they care? One should as far as possible have regular home cooked food and keep the junk food to be enjoyed only periodically but not on every day. We know junk food have high levels of calories from salt, sugar and saturated fats containing insufficient vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins. Do not waste your important enzymes meant for other metabolic functioning in converting these junk food into energy. No point of buying food and let them waste either, try and eat nutritiously.

Home cooked food

Many years ago in Sri Lanka these junk foods were not available in everywhere. They ate outside in hotels when they have to go on journeys but not quite junk food. Now even if they can cook food at home some people eat junk food, the question is why. Unlike in the past they are busy at jobs, too much travelling so they do not spend time in home cooking. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

6 Responses to “Junk food consumption by today’s young generation”

  1. callistus Says:

    Doctor, How many people do you think will be interested in reading your writings in this forum? By the way can we have your method of energy saving cooking.

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    One important reason for the growth of junk food is a complete change of lifestyle

    When I was a child in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) there was no Television. it was a culture based on the radio, the record player and the cinema. I seldom if ever ate junk food listening to the radio, even though there was plenty of it in Colombo.

    When my family arrived to the US that changed. TV Dinners to “grazing” (or eating constantly throughout the day) became a habit. I remember Weekends when cartoons would be on in the morning to the afternoon, followed by Japanese “Godzilla” movies. I would set up my “junk food” in preparation to do what I used to only do in the cinema, and that is eat potato chips and other forms of junk food. The difference being unlike in the cinema where one does this for about an hour or two, people sit without ever moving for hours on end feeding themselves incessantly followed with a soda to boot.

    There was time when commercials would give you time to bring in more stuff, quickly to something else and then settle down to see program after program. it has changed how we live. we have to recognize that first.

    Finally when I visited Sri Lanka in 2009 and was invited by a Jeweler family for dinner in their spacious house. I noticed that their walls were bare. No copies of paintings, photos etc hanging on the walls. But the massive TV was blaring out. I also noticed much money is spent on personal adornment (such as rings etc). Here in the US it is part of the culture to decorate every inch of the walls with some art or photos They did have a section for family photos which looked like they were “enshrined”. The children did not have the luxury of any deviation but the television. The walked down corridors where the walls had nothing on them and the only thing they had going was the “one eyed monster” or the Television.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    BW,

    Enjoyed your comment on life style changes. ABSOLUTELY TRUE!

    Today, there are two more “One-Eyed Mosters” that have taken hold of both adults and particularly children …. even more so than the TV. They are the “notebook computer” and the” smartphone”. Spouses are neglected by addicted adults, and children never see “real people”, they are totally engrossed with their smartphones texting, browsing, and interacting with Facebook and Twitter, and chatting with god knows who!

    Recently, I invited a couple and their two children out to dinner. The children were totally out of it, and played with their smart phones continually. My wife and I didn’t get a chance to talk to them at all to get to know them, and the parents did not correct their behaviour either. I think the parents have given up correcting as a wasted effort! I am now resolved NEVER to invite such kids anywhere!

    This is completely opposite to the behaviour of kids when my eight sisters and brothers grew up in Sri Lanka. We were thrilled when elders, family and friends, visited us … usually with some small gift in tow. They had great stories and jokes to tell, experiences to convey, and their visits were usually laugh fests.

    Many of those dear colorful people of immense character are now dead and gone …. but not from my mind where they will remain indelibly etched!

  4. Independent Says:

    Mr. USA,
    Rather than trying to find problems with the new generation why not look at the mirror and the Maniac.

  5. callistus Says:

    Wow, good doctor has had a lot of comments today. He must be happy.

  6. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Ananda:

    Thanks for sharing. What that tells me is even worse. I have seen this too often. People talking incessantly about something they will not even remember the next day. Those people are tuned out of human relationships and tuned into a world created by a corporation.
    It brings me to yet another subject that Dr. Hecter Perera may want to address. that is the rapid rise of the use of drugs such as heroine, pot, and other mind altering drugs in addition of junk food. The loss of a generation is always painful but when it is lost at such a time it becomes more so.

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