Healthy diets start in childhood and since children spend 5 days a week in school it’s important the school menu accommodates healthy choices.
Most schools incorporate healthy choices now, but inner city schools where money is especially tight, may not be able to provide nutritious meals at all times. Certain foods included on the school lunch menu could be classified as junk foods, as we know these foods generally provide little in terms of a balance of vitamins, minerals, or protein and are often high in saturated fats and sugars.
When junk food is regularly consumed, adverse health impacts can arise and if children access junk food in school, they may not have access to the advice from adults as to whether or not their eating choices are healthy. Unless parents ask, they may assume their children are eating healthy nutritious meals in school.
Junk foods can lead to high levels of cholesterol
But it isn’t just sugar and fat consumption that are concerning when children make junk food a regular part of their diet. These items often contain higher levels of unsaturated fat, which means children may see an increase in their cholesterol levels.
The World Health Organization reports that higher levels of these food items in the diet creates a higher risk of chronic disease development and stroke later in life. Even the higher levels of salt that are found in processed foods can raise blood pressure levels to increase the chances of heart disease development as well.
Junk foods might lower the IQ level
The nutritional value of the foods that a child eats is directly linked to their brain activity. When junk food is their primary source, fewer nutrients will be made available to the brain. This result, impacts their IQ level over time, because the learning process becomes slower. Children only need to eat junk food items three times per week to have a lower IQ level, compared to the kids who do not eat these products as often.
Junk foods may lead to higher levels of gastrointestinal problems
Since 2003, there has been a 114% rise in the cases of irritable bowel diseases requiring hospital admissions for youth in the United Kingdom. This steep rise may have many causes, but eating a lot of junk food could be one of the foundational causes of the issue. It is more challenging for the body to process foods that contain high levels of fat. People who eat fast food more than twice a week increase their risks of developing IBS.
Junk foods can damage the liver and heart
The excessive consumption of junk foods can pose a threat to the heart and liver of a child, because of the higher levels of salt and fat that is contained in these processed foods. Not only will this increase the risk of obesity in today’s adolescents, but it will also contribute to higher levels of fatty deposits in the arteries and liver, which can lead to future health issues as well.
Junk foods can be addictive
When junk foods are available in schools, then it exposes children to products that are highly habit forming. The regular consumption of these products can lead to children becoming addicted to them. With the higher levels of fat, salt, and sugar these foods contain, their unique taste can make it difficult for children to resist eating more of them, more often than they should.
Junk foods in schools can put kids off of healthier choices
Once children form the habit of eating junk foods in school, then it is also possible for them to move away from the desire to eat healthier options. If children eat more unhealthy snacks and processed foods then they are usually eating fewer fruits and vegetables throughout the day. This habit decreases fibre intake, vitamin levels, and eliminates the desire to have items that are healthy.
Children who eat healthy nutritious meals in childhood are more likely to lead a healthier lifestyle as adults. But even without a healthy diet in childhood, there is nothing to stop that child changing their eating habits in their adult lives. It may be harder, because bad habits set in, but it’s certainly not impossible.