How Junk Food Affects Children

child health and nutrition

THE FAST-FOOD INDUSTRY

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.

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.

So, what is the solution to overcoming junk food cravings?

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