Alternatives to Junk Food
Junk food is always extremely appealing to children usually because of its high salt or sugar content. However it has been proven that young adults are getting life style diseases to bad food habits. Increased salt intake directly leads to an increase in blood pressure levels. The high artificial sugar content in many foods leads to increase in weight gain which leads to many diseases such as childhood obesity and diabetes.
Junk food might be cheap and easily available but these should not be your priorities when it comes to your child’s food. Whether or not your child eats junk food is in your hands. Your child does not grocery shop nor does he/she pay for that soda at a movie theatre. To like these foods, children have to develop a taste for it. So if they are not exposed to these kinds of foods on a daily basis (or at the least are given them only as a ‘special treat’) then your children will not be so junk-food crazy. Although it is significant to remember that ‘banning’ junk food might make it more desirable to your child so a once-in-a-while treat is alright if your child really wants it. This is why it is important to give your toddler an early start to forgo junk food for more nutritious and equally tasty substitutes.
Here are some healthier alternatives to junk-food that you can give your child:
- Instead of the packaged chips which contain high levels of sodium as well as trans-fats you can make your child some baked potato wedges or if he/she likes crunchy things then the popular Gujarati snack- khakhara should satisfy his craving for a crispy snack to munch on. Other alternatives to potato chips are peanuts, boiled sweet corn, pop-corn (not the instant butter popcorn or the microwave kind, but the separate bag of kernels that you should find in the pulses or grain section of your supermarket) or baked tortilla chips.
- Soft-drinks are something that many children seem to love and many parents let their children drink it in spite of the large amounts artificial sweeteners that are added. Even diluted with water this is not a very good drink for children (or adults). If your child likes the fizzy drink then you can make your own by giving your child some soda with lime and sugar. You can add tiny quantities of other fruit juices to soda to give it a different flavour. This alternative tastes good enough to keep your child away from the other kinds of sodas.
- Biscuits and candy are other culprits of unhealthy foods. Instead you can try and get your child to acquire a taste for dark chocolate, raisins or dry fruits that also have a similar sugary sweet-ness but are very healthy as well. One very good alternative to a sweet treat (and a way to get your child to eat a fruit) is to eat frozen grapes. The texture is a fun, crunchy surprise and it retains its sweet taste. Peanut butter on apple slices is another such sweet treat.
- If your child is a fan of cakes then try to give him healthier options in cakes such as banana cake or carrot cakes.
- Tetra-packed fruit juices claim to be extremely healthy but in reality are basically just a lot of sugar and chemicals with no real fruit. Fruit juices made at home however are always a better option although even these loose some nutrients because Vitamin C is extremely volatile. There is no real substitute for a fruit. However if your child really likes to drink his fruit then you can introduce him/her to a fruit smoothie. A typical smoothie might include some milk and ice cream but you can substitute the ice cream with some curd (ensure the curd is not sour and is fresh otherwise it will affect the taste). Strawberries, mangos or bananas are all popular ingredients in a fruit smoothie.
Your toddler might reject a food at first because most young children are not very adventurous when it comes to food but research has shown that a new food needs to be exposed to the child 8-10 times before your child develops a taste for it (how to handle picky eaters) . So patience is always the key when it comes to children’s nutrition!