Junk food – Is there any permissible limit to it?

Food, healthy eating, and junk food are every mother’s concern.

What is junk food and what’s not?

Food with high-calorie content and low nutritional value are considered junk. It’s got high salt, sugar, and calories and is definitely not good for health. So milkshake is junk? Yes, because it has a high amount of sugar and so are our favorite french fries, pizza, bhujia, poppadoms and nutritional drinks (to add to milk to boost its nutrients).

 A food is considered harmful to health and is considered junk food when it has:

  • More than 35% of calories from fat (except for low-fat milk)  any trans fat
  • More than 35% of calories from sugar, unless it is made with 100% fruit and no added sugar
  • More than 200 calories per servings for snacks
  • More than 200 mg per serving for sodium (salt) for snacks

 (source –

Eating junk food leads to obesity in adults and children alike. Obese children are twice more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they are young or grow older. This obesity could make them lethargic and affect their extracurricular activities in school. Obese children grow up to develop diabetes. In India, this is a growing problem. Eating Junk also leads to lower EQ.  The hormones in a child’s body get affected because of eating too much of these sugary foods. This results in children having extreme mood swings, sometimes resulting in tantrums.

Eating junk turns into a food preference and a habit that is difficult to get rid of. This junk provides for unsaturated fats that start lining the arteries and lead to heart issues later in life too. Eating junk is equal to the constipation problem in children since there are no fibers for the bowel movements. They put pressure on kidneys too. Salt is bad for the kidneys and that’s why it’s recommended that children under 12 months of age are not to be given salt in the food as their kidneys find it difficult to process it. The permissible limit for salt in a child’s diet according to NHS is:

Up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)

1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)

4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)

7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)

11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)

A packet of chips, for example, contains an average of 188 mg sodium/100g chips. Any store-bought pack of french fries contains: Small: 0.5 g salt to Large: 1.2 g sat.

 But the question is can you really check every product you buy for your child for its nutritional values? That’s definitely not feasible every time but thanks to the internet most of us are aware of what falls into the junk category and what falls into the healthy category. Our kids consider us their role models and that holds up for food too. We need to eat healthy for our kids to do the same.

The most popular junk children eat in India is instant noodles and I don’t see any reason why they must be introduced to it. Yes, junk is easy, but the msg in them can cause neurological problems and they are high in sodium, to make them yummy. These are readily available everywhere and children love it too (who doesn’t like to binge on them). But considering the rate of health issues in children we should stop and rethink.

 Parenthood is difficult and the toughest part is to make the kids eat healthy, nutritious food. They need to be taught early to embrace healthy food over junk.

The boys don’t eat these instant noodles at all as I never offered them even when they were on a hunger strike. Life is big and eating junk happens at one point for everyone. Why introduce these tiny ones to it now and jeopardize their health. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer them any yummy snack at all. Moderation is the key, rather than making meals out of them. Avoiding such yummy food is definitely difficult and at times, impossible too. You could try air frying the French frying. Milkshakes can be made at home too. Instead of chasing the junk pizza with tons of salt choose the outlets that serve wheat base and healthier options. Make a lifestyle choice for your younger ones to embrace and promote healthy living. We always say our grandparents lived better and healthier, and that is primarily because of the food and lifestyle choices they made. We need to correct ourselves and our kids too and cultivate healthy lifestyle practices.

Related: Is your older child aggressive towards your younger one?

About Me

Hi, I am Shraddha Fogla and I am a mother of two beautiful boys, one 5-year-old and the other 2. I would like to share some great tips on children’s activities to help boost their mental, sensory and motor skills.

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