Go healthy!

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree lists the reasons behind the rampant junk food consumption in our country

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Modern day fast life has upgraded our economic status and living standards on many levels. The countless allures that we are offered with vehemently fall short on one aspect: bringing about an unhealthy change in our food habit. It goes without saying that our traditional food consumption has largely been replaced with junk food.

Junk or fast food is the popular choice of food at present as these are always ready to be served and a hungry person can satisfy his hunger anywhere, anytime and rather quickly. Readymade food items that are high in calorie, has a high salt, sugar or fat content, lesser nutrient values in terms of protein, fibres and minerals are labelled as junk food. Food items like burgers, patties, samosa-singara, chips, energy drinks, chocolates, cookies etc fall under this section. Our traditional roti/paratha breakfast with vegetables or lentils, a proper lunch with rice and curry items, some homemade snacks in the afternoon, a light supper- this routine is gradually changing now. The availability of food items all day round has largely messed with the routine too.

This dependence on fast food has made a victim out of everyone, the foremost sufferers are children and young people. The aged ones too are not left unharmed.

Obesity in children and young people are correlated with fast food intake. Over the last few decades, the risk of obesity increased among these age groups as a result of high calorie intake coupled with lesser physical activity.

Children are growing fond of fast food as it is being popularised among them through avid advertisements in their institutional programmes, attractive TV advertisements, promotional posters at the movies and so on. Availability of fast food around the school premises, working parents who have lesser time to prepare home-made food for them, tastier items with added flavours, children being out all day for school or coaching purposes are the few of the reasons behind this popularity.

A study named ‘Fast Food Consumption in Children: A Review’ by Jagadish C Das conducted on the fast food intake by Bangladeshi children shows that a correlation was found between children’s fast food intake and their increased body mass index. Overweight children were found out to be more familiar with restaurants and fast food items.

According to health journals and doctors, along with obesity, fast food is responsible for health concerns like hypertension, dyslipidemia and impaired glucose tolerance, risk of heart diseases, dental caries and many more. There are of course issues of hygiene maintenance and use of harmful chemicals too, adding to further complications.

University students too are at a higher risk of suffering from these health issues. A cross-sectional study named ‘Bangladeshi Student’s Standpoint on Junk Food Consumption and Social Behaviour’ in the IOSR Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences conducted in 2015 on the fast food intake of university students shows that the university students consume junk food four days per week on an average, almost 98.5 per cent of students had fast food on a regular basis, 43.3 per cent of their daily expenses were spent on fast food items. The reasons behind are, the food is tasty, they can get them easily and carry around, it is time saving and most of all students who had to skip breakfast for an early morning class or stress, would have anything they can find in the nearby fast food shop after being done with classes or works.

The health risks are all the same in university students as of the school going children. 98 per cent of the university students are well aware of the side-effects and risks involved in high intake of junk food items, but the addiction seems to be never-ending. The school-going children and their families too are apparently knowledgeable of these facts but are going with the flow. The adults are nonetheless backwards in this story. Altogether it is a rather horrifying picture for our national public health.

Fast food is a slow killer and there is no denying that. For children, the availability of healthy food around should be ensured by parents. If it is not possible to make healthy breakfast at home, it can be purchased too. But parents should have indepth knowledge on the nutritional value of different food items and prevent the children from over-consumption of junk food.

As is done in developed countries, schools or institutions may keep surveillance on the dietary habit of the children. Campaigns can be organised from time to time informing students about what to eat and what not to eat.

As for all, healthy eating is suggested to be made a regular practice. Instead of junk food, one may increase the intake of fruits and nuts, small meals, salads, vegetables around the day. Having knowledge of nutritional content of the food items is imperative as we could decide on the best meal for us.

There are informative chapters on the nutritional value of food items in children’s books, the adults may do researches on them or consult a dietician if necessary. Along with that price reduction of good food, low in fat and high in nutritional value, is necessary.

Instead of advertising fast food and presenting them as lucrative as ever, television, radios, newspapers and other media are suggested to focus on promoting healthy eating. A little concern and control is all it takes for us to keep healthy and not drive us towards a slow painful death through health complications.

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