Fast Food Effects on Kid's Stomach

Paediatric Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist in Old Airport Road Bangalore

Food is vital for the survival and proper functioning of the body. Growing kids need more energy in the form of food for their optimal growth and development. However, it is important to understand as parents that not only the quantity of food but its quality also plays a huge role in a child’s overall growth. 

Not all foods are great for health. Some food when consumed in large amounts or over a long period can lead to the development of several chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer etc. Such food is known as fast food or junk food. 

Given the yummy taste, ease of purchase, lower price rates, and convenience, children are attracted the most towards fast food. It can be addictive and children do not understand the long-term negative effects of these foods on their health.

Pizzas, chips, pastries, candy, burgers, aerated drinks, fried foods, and salted snacks are all a part of the fast-food category.

Fast Food Composition

Fast food contains little to no nutrition as compared to healthy foods. They are low in essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Fast foods are high in ingredients that are harmful to health namely,

1. Added sugar, flavours and colours

The artificially coloured foods contain flavours, sugars, and colours to make these fast foods look attractive. Pair them with aerated drinks and you have a double overload of sugar promoting obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc

2. Trans fats

Trans fats are a form of unhealthy fats that are harmful to heart and gut health. These fats get stuck in the blood vessels and inner linings of your organs and cause various diseases. Fast foods that are fried like burgers, hot dogs or those foods that are loaded with cheese are rich in trans fats.

3. Processed foods

Fast food lacks dietary fibre. Instead, they are processed so many times that these foods are stripped off of their basic nutrients. 

4. Added Salt

Chips, French fries, biscuits, salad dressings and sauces are high in salt which can lead to hypertension and kidney issues. 

 

5 ways in which Fast Food affects your kid's stomach

1. Constipation

Dietary fibre is essential for the smooth functioning of your child's gut. Dietary fibre is found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Fibre helps in keeping your bowel movement smooth and supports the excretion of waste from the body. When your child's diet is filled with junk food, there is no dietary fibre. This means lesser absorption of water and sluggish bowel movements. The lack of water results in constipation and abdominal discomfort in kids.

2. Stomach and kidney ailments

Fast food contains high amounts of sodium, sugars, and trans fats. All these are harmful to your kid’s kidney and stomach. When high amounts of salt are consumed by your child, there is water retention in the body. Sodium holds on to a greater amount of water that results in swelling, bloating, and causes abdominal pain and discomfort. Increased intake of sodium also affects the functioning of the kidneys.

3. Liver diseases

The trans fats and high sodium content of fast food affect the liver and cause liver damage. Your child may complain of abdominal pain, bloating, swelling of the abdominal veins and bleeding from the veins in the stomach. 

4. Digestive disorders

Food colouring in fast foods along with high levels of sodium and trans fats cause problems in digestion for children. Your child may complain of heartburn, reflux, tummy ache, and irritable bowel. The oil in fried fast foods gets stuck to the walls of the stomach and increases the production of acid. The spices in fast food irritate the lining of the stomach and make the digestion process sluggish.

5. Peptic ulcers

Peptic ulcers are one of the most common types of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. Intake of spicy food, fast food, and constant lack of nutrition leads to stomach ulcers. Lack of essential vitamins in junk food results in poor nutrition and malabsorption in the gut. 

 

How to get your child to eat healthily?

As exciting as junk food may be, you need to ensure your child eats healthy foods more. Your target is to get your child to eat healthily. Here is how you can do it.

1. Make it colourful

Colours appeal to children. The more colourful and attractive the food is, the higher the chances are of your kid eating them. Feed your kid the rainbow they say. It is true. Prepare a plate full of colourful vegetables and fruits and serve it to your child. You could make veggie dips like beetroot hummus that is colourful as well as nutritious.

2. Maintain variety

Nobody likes eating the same meal daily. Make it interesting by giving your child a variety of foods. You need not buy a whole lot of food. With the same ingredient, you can make a dip one day or a wrap on the other. Try using veggies to make falafel, some patties or a wholesome soup. 

3. Cook together

Always prefer home-cooked food over eating out. Home-cooked food is high in nutrition and health. Cooking a meal together helps your child understand the nutrients involved in each food item. Get your child to eat healthy by making healthy a habit and practising what you preach to your child. They follow what you do and will copy you. So, the next time you think of buying fast food, opt for the healthier versions and relish it with your child. 

 

Dr. Srikanth KP

Consultant - Paediatric Gastroenterology And Hepatology

Manipal Hospital, Old Airport Road, Bangalore

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