How Junk Food Affects Children

child health and nutrition

Parent often wonder how junk food affects children

Millions of dollars are spent each year on very attractive advertising and fast-food packaging to entice and persuade families to choose certain fast food Restaurants. It’s convenient, generally cheap and easily accessible.  Fast food chains ensure that their restaurants provide a quick and easy meal for all the family… And there is no cooking or preparation involved. But many are nor aware of how junk food affects children.

THE FAST-FOOD INDUSTRY

Fast food restaurants are often the place of choice after a game of physical activity, to unwind with friends but these outlets have very limited healthy food for a child to eat.

Fast food chains make their food packaging very attractive to children. Packaging often includes many “must have” collectable toys, enticing children to come back and collect the whole toy series.

HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP FOOD PREFERENCES

FOOD PREFERENCES ARE DEVELOPED IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

When babies and young toddlers are first introduced to solid food, they often prefer some foods over others. However, when they are very young, it’s essential that they are introduced to good healthy foods gradually, Their diet should have lots of variety, to include all the vitamins and minerals growing children need for a healthy diet.

These food preferences are developed in early childhood and directly influence their future eating habits. If a child is exposed to unhealthy foods… foods with high levels of saturated fats, such as French fries, along with drinks and juices with added sugars, at an early age, this can be closely linked to a child’s health and wellbeing in the future. 

If children are presented with a choice of healthier foods such as vegetables as opposed to convenient chicken nuggets, French fries and drinks with added sugars, children will mostly lean towards the fast food options.

Once they are introduced to attractively presented fast food such as chicken nuggets, Burger King hamburgers and French fries (all high in salt) and drinks with lots of added sugars, children may become quite addicted to unhealthy food because these foods are both sweet and salty.

HOW JUNK FOOD AFFECTS CHILDREN

Children need a balanced diet of healthy foods, full of good nutrition

HOW DOES EATING REGULAR FAST FOOD IMPACT CHILD HEALTH?

Healthier foods with essential vitamins and minerals are the best choices for a child to eat. Natural healthy foods have no added sodium or sugars.  

However, when children eat fast food on a regular basis, they acquire a taste and preference for foods high in salt and added sugars and these often become the food of choice.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF JUNK FOOD

When children and teenagers overdose on fast foods, their desire towards healthy food choices is somewhat negative and this makes it harder to develop healthy eating habits and maintain a balanced diet.

Regular junk food (eaten more than 2 to 5 times per week) can negatively impact a child’s health and lead to serious long term health problems. One single meal of junk food may contain the total allowance of calories for one day… or more for a growing teenagers or young children.

Effects of Junk Food on Child Development

1          Learning Difficulties

Eating unhealthy food that lacks nutrition, on a regular basis, can stunt a young child’s scholastic learning ability and affect concentration levels when performing alongside other children of the same age.

Junk food lacks essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, fibre and probiotics that are essential for proper brain function.  Deficiency in such nutrients can lead to an inability to concentrate and absorb information clearly.  This causes a reduction in alertness and lowers the capacity to learn new skills. 

2          Increase in Dental Decay

Lack of essential nutrients can lead to abnormal bone growth as well as early dental problems.

Unhealthy saturated fats plus high levels of salt, added sugars, preservatives and the lack of the essential vitamins and minerals can lead to obesity as well as dental decay. 

3          Physical Development Effects

Obesity in children is increasing at alarming rates and this can curb their ability to be active and participate with their peers.  Obesity in growing children can lead to abnormal weight and balance issues and this leads to deformed bone structure.  This can affect their ability to participate freely in active physical activity, which can further lead to self-esteem and emotional problems.

4          Lack of Focus and Energy Levels

Overindulging in junk food can create an addiction for the taste of fast food and this leads to children craving fast food on a regular basis.  Children on a regular diet of junk food can suffer from fatigue and low energy levels.

5          Increased Risk of Depression

Poor eating can result in food habits such as sugar cravings, with high calorie foods giving a spike in blood sugars. This can lead to poor concentration and huge sugar crash swings, and difficulty staying focused and alert.

These sudden spikes can result in increases in depression, lower self-esteem levels, increased rates of hyperactivity and could ultimately lead to mood swings and less ability to accomplish required tasks.

6          Long Term Health Issues

Childhood food habits invariably become adulthood habits   When children eat fast food on a regular basis (more than several times a week) it can cause long term deficiencies in a child’s health and nutrition. This is because junk food lacks important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, protein, healthy fats and carbs that growing children need.  Fast food greatly impacts on their cognitive development, physical abilities and fitness levels, as well as their overall health and wellbeing.

Eating larger portion sizes and unhealthy fast food can lead to many health issues. High salt levels can lead to increased blood pressure and may even result in early kidney disease.

7          Reduced Academic Achievement

The highs and lows of overloading on sugar drinks and foods can dramatically affect a child’s or teenager’s scholastic abilities and overall academic performance.  This in turn has the potential to impact on their social relationships with their peers from a young age, and into the future.

8          Digestive Issues

Eating unhealthy foods, lacking in vital nutrients, can lead to early child health issues such as constipation and bowel problems.

Eating junk food can develop into an addiction and affect a child’s desire for much healthier foods. This can lead to constipation problems as fast food invariably lacks fruits and vegetables, fibre, and dairy products and this can lead to many medical problems.

9          Lower Immune System Levels

A fast food, high sugar diet negatively impacts the gut, increases childhood obesity and can lead to high cholesterol levels. The devastating effects of uncontrolled overeating of junk food can greatly affect the immune system and lead to long term medical problems.

10        Sleep Problems

Poor nutrition can lead to disturbed sleep patterns and consequently affects children’s health and wellbeing in the long term.


Growing children require heathy foods, slowly introduced, from all the food groups.

What is the solution to overcoming junk food cravings?

Read more about how to break the cycle of unhealthy eating…


Developing Good Communication with your Child

good communication
Parental guidance

Developing good communication with your child is important for building a strong relationship and fostering positive development, especially for your teen.

When children are upset or emotionally out of sorts, it’s not the time to argue with them. When they scream or yell or throw things around, it’s not time to explain to them about the rules. At such a time, they are shutting themselves off as their emotions are completely out of control. It is definitely not the time to lecture or explain the rules or expect any apologies or demand an apology for their bad behaviour. Anything you might say would not really be heard or understood properly. The child is so overwhelmed with by their feelings that their emotional state is on overload.

Information is not understood or observed properly. It’s only when things have returned to normal that reminders of family rules and expectations can be explained or re enforced. A child needs to be attentive and calm to understand and process information correctly. This should be done in a loving and understanding manner. Parents need to hold back from jumping in too quickly.

The best way to teach children is to listen to them.

raising children
raising happy children

Helping our children through angry, sad or difficult moments can be difficult to manage as a parent, and some parental guidance is needed.

It’s important to establish good everyday words of communication that are spoken without judgemental or shaming words that can so easily crush a child’s esteem.  Often we as parents don’t give our children clear instructions. But we can fall into the trap of using bribery or threatening to punish or compromise a situation, simply to bring about a child’s compliance with what they have been asked to do.

Below is a list of some words and phrases that parents often use to get their child to do what’s been asked of them

“Stop whining and crying like a baby…

I’ve had it with you.  Do you want to go to your room?…

If you finish all your vegies, you can …..

OK do that again and you will be very sorry….

You’re causing me to get angry. (tone of voice)….

It’s not a big deal, you will get over it in time…

Oh, just stop doing that…

You have to do it, because I said so…

You’re whining again…

You’ll get something special if you finish all your dinner…

See how your sister is behaving ?  Why can’t you do that?…

No means no because I said so…

OK, forget what I said, we’ll do it your way or

We will do it next time… “

All of these behavioural communication expressions have very confusing messages attached to them.

Children learn very quickly that you will eventually ‘give in” if they persist long enough or that sometimes you are harder on them than their sibling.

They learn that…

you don’t listen

you change your mind and they are never quite sure what they can get away with or…

after the count of 3 you won’t really do anything

you cave in easily

you are always watching and judging them

they always feel critiqued

they think that they always misbehaving

Children feel so overwhelmed by rules and regulations that are always changing and not followed through on. Parents’ mixed messages are confusing to them and they can become confused and irritable and sometimes angry out of frustration.


Here are some tips for improving communication with your child:

Create a safe space: Make sure your child feels comfortable and safe to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or punishment.

Listen actively: Show your child that you are interested in what they have to say by giving them your full attention and responding thoughtfully to their comments.

Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask questions that encourage your child to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings.

Use age-appropriate language: Tailor your language to your child’s developmental level so they can better understand what you’re saying.

Be patient: Sometimes children need time to articulate their thoughts, so give them the space and time to express themselves.

Validate their feelings: Even if you don’t agree with your child’s perspective, acknowledge their feelings and let them know that their emotions are valid.

Avoid criticism: Avoid criticizing or judging your child for their thoughts or feelings. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and encouraging their growth.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a healthy and open line of communication with your child, that will benefit them throughout their lives.

All communication with your child needs to be simple, unambiguous, encouraging and positive.

Young Children and Communication

A New Baby in the Home

newborn baby

Shortcuts to coping with the demands of the arrival of a new baby

baby swim
new baby

Exciting as it is, we can all feel out of our depth with the arrival of a new baby and becoming a parent for the very first time.

You may have read the theory, watched videos, chatted with family and friends but if you haven’t spent much time around babies, tiny infants can overwhelm you and provide you with a reality check.

Being able to cope with the demands of a new baby means parents need lots of sleep, rest and need to eat properly.  Remember, as new parents you will always benefit from the practical tips, insights and the little pearls of wisdom of other parents who have already been there.

Feeding, sleeping patterns, and bathing a newborn can have their challenges. It’s important that a baby gets the right amount of sleep for its development.  A newborn baby needs to sleep about four hours at a time before it wakes and needs changing, feeding, then putting back down to sleep.  

Ten Tips to Help You Cope

Always take care of yourself first, as babies need you to be healthy and able to take proper care of them.

Before a new baby arrives, prepare meals in advance for busy times. When making meals, cook for two nights instead of the one or freeze for another time.  Rearrange your normal daily routine eg, cook your main meal in the morning instead of at night, as well as other chores.

The correct amount of sleep for yourself is paramount to your baby’s health and development.

If it’s the only child, you should sleep when they sleep as your rest is also important.

If you have other children to cope with, you should also sleep when they sleep.

Don’t be a martyr and try to do everything as you did before, recognize that a new baby can be stressful.

Allow time for your partner and other children.

Be aware of your baby’s safety at all times.  Don’t leave your baby where they may fall or hurt themselves or be unsupervised by others, or with animals.

Avoid loud noises around your baby as a baby needs a reasonable amount of quietness.

Never be afraid to ask for assistance from your health worker as they have the training, knowledge and experience to answer your concerns or questions in all areas of infancy and young children, even if it’s for reassurance.

As new parents or bringing another baby into the home your approach should be that of inclusiveness.  Model good communication skills, where parents demonstrate love and support, closely listening to and understanding each child’s needs.

Another baby arrives

New baby in the home

Prepare older children for the expected arrival of a new baby, helping them to understand the new dynamics it will bring to the family.  Show them some pictures of themselves when they were little.  Read stories about new babies, how they grow, cry, and need special looking after.  Children need to feel that they also can assist by watching, helping to bath them and hold them when they are asleep.  Even though children don’t fully understand how the family dynamics will change, they need to know that they too, have an important role to play by being involved and this makes them feel important.  Reassure your children that you will need lots of help from them.  Explain beforehand that the new baby will need lots of sleep, feeding and the changing of their nappies.  Other children need lots of love and cuddles from their parents which demonstrates that they too are as important as the new baby.

As new parents we need to be prepared for the many challenges and situations that a newborn baby will present as normal everyday routines are disrupted.

Raising Happy Children

Being an Effective Parent.

raising children

Being an effective parent can be one of the most rewarding things in life but at the same time it can be one of the most challenging.

effective parenting

From infancy right through to early adulthood, parents can face so many different situations where they can provide opportunities for children to make decisions, within limits, and to be accountable for these decisions. We need to be parents who use encouragement, valuing each child as a unique individual who requires love and respect. It’s imperative that we strive to understand each child’s behaviour, their misbehaviour and their emotions.

 Children within the same family can have very different personalities and temperaments from that of their parents… or they may be similar, and this can create many diverse challenges for parents at the different stages of childhood, through to being teenagers.

The Parental Challenge

Our challenge as parents is, “How do we raise co-operative children who are respectful, well balanced, caring and thoughtful of others and will go on to be responsible citizens in the community”.

Parents often ask, “how can I get my children under control”?  It’s the biggest frustration for parents when children don’t listen, they ignore their directions, or ignore the family’s rules. Parents get so frustrated when their children seem to be always challenging their authority. For example, choosing to make them wait when being asked repeatedly to do something such as pack up their toys, or when they choose to use the delay tactic when something is asked of them.

Other examples…

Despite your daily instructions of “BE nice to your sister”, the child’s behaviour does not change.

“Don’t do that again”,

“You need to let me do your seat belt up”

Getting your child to sleep
raising happy children

And so it goes on. Sometimes you feel as a parent that you have lost control of every situation and nothing seems to be working.  Everyday seems to be a battle of wills. Who is going to win?  Daily battles with dressing, packing up toys, getting in and out of the car or bath and going to sleep at night.

Parents can feel so worn out, despondent and feel they have lost control.  All this can lead to increased stress, frustration and arguments as to how best to bring up their kids, and parents then start blaming each other.

Of course, we as parents, are responsible for their safety and well-being, but we are also the ones who need to teach independence, good decision-making skills whilst all the while building their self-esteem.

When it comes to parenting, we need to be the overseers of their safety and well-being, always taking care of them, guiding, explaining and more importantly, conducting ourselves so as to be examples of the right way to behave towards others.  We need to show thoughtfulness and lead by example.

Good Parent or Bad Parent?

Parents worry a lot about their authority constantly being challenged or undermined in anyway and they especially don’t want to be seen as a “bad parent”.  In simple terms, parents just want their children to do as they are told, when they are told.

We have to remember as parents, that we too can be stubborn, controlling and purposefully annoying to others.  Being unreasonable or unkind brings about arguments and shouting, and when children are watching or perhaps listening in another room, they are receiving mixed messages.

Setting the Example

We as adults need to lead by example, showing our children how we as parents resolve disagreements, how we speak to each other.  We need to watch our tone of voice. Children need to see that we can apologise to each other, our children and our broader family or friends.

Children from one-day-old are always listening, watching and learning from sounds, movements, eye contact, tone of voice and the world they live in, its surrounds or environment.

Children will always try to test their boundaries, it’s part of their learning and this shows their cognitive ability is developing by frequently challenging and trying new things and wanting and waiting for how you are going to respond. This goes on through into teenage and young adulthood and probably beyond. We as parents have a great responsibility in our child’s early childhood years to develop positive skill building abilities based around love, nurture and security,  

What are the Child’s Needs?

Children need a good positive environment where together we can show honesty and respect, along with many other attributes that will stands them in good stead to become well balanced, responsible citizens who can show empathy and respect for themselves and others.  It is our job as parents to develop these skills in our children, allowing for their individual personalities to shine and grow into healthy well-balanced responsible teenagers and adults who also have respect for others.  

We want our children, over their formative years, to develop the skills to be capable of making good responsible decisions for themselves and to develop into independent thinking people who are thoughtful to those around them.

We, as parents, are of course in charge, but children have a great need to be understood and listened to, even when they misbehave. We expect our children to always remember the rules, but we need to remember that knowing the rules and putting them into practice at a given moment by a 3-year-old or older are two different things.

Read more Helpful Parenting Tips

self esteem is, self esteem activities

A Mother’s Day Reflection

Mothers Day Flowers

Each year, we celebrate Mother’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate the women in our lives who have special meaning to us… the women who have played a significant role in our upbringing, who have loved us dearly, guided us and with whom we feel a very special connection. These women may be our own dear mother, a grandmother, an aunt or big sister motherly figure, or a carer, all of whom have guided us and helped us to grow.

Flowers for Mothers Day
Flowers for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is also a special day to acknowledge all women who have experienced different or difficult circumstances in life… those who no longer have their mothers, those who have lost their children through different circumstances and are not able to hold or cradle them in their arms.  We also think of women who dearly desire motherhood but are unable to have children yet.  Mother’s Day can, for so many, be a very sad reminder of a loved mother who is no longer with them.

It’s a day to remember with gratitude all the times these women have been a source of strength and guidance and have been there for support when we have needed it… providing us with values to live by and resilience to bounce back when things get difficult.

Motherhood can be difficult and challenging at times. There can be lots to laugh about and lots of tears and sorrow.  We need to be grateful to all mothers everywhere who have come to the aid of others with encouragement, empowerment and strength of character and who have influenced other women, throughout history.

Mother’s Day is a great day to embrace all mothers everywhere, and to encourage all women to be the very best that they can be.

Read about Raising Happy Children