What Are The Effects Of Eating Junk Food In Kids?


Your child’s requests for pizza or burgers are getting beyond control, and you are worried about the negative effects of junk foods on children’s health. Regular and long-term consumption of junk foods such as fries, burgers, and other unhealthy meals can contribute to various health problems, including obesity. So, continue reading to learn more about junk meals, how they affect your child’s health, and some healthy alternatives to try.

A Major Concern Worldwide

These days, every locality and every mall has a junk food outlet, dishing out fries, pizzas, burgers, rolls, and what have you! It is a great concern worldwide that children in their growing years form the larger part of such outlet’s consumers.

It is truly a challenge to keep your child away from less nutritious yet delicious junk food. The growing awareness of the ill effects of junk food is slower than the pace of the effect it has on your child.

Understanding all about junk food and how to replace it with healthy eating is something we are sure will help you be a better ‘food-police’ the next time.

Let’s move it

Talking of junk food and fads, the former US First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign has taken up a good cause to battle the bulge in kids. The U.S. government has set up strict rules and guidelines in schools to provide healthy food instead of junk food for kids.

What Substances Make Food ‘Junk’?

Junk food has negligible nutritional value and does more harm than good. Take a closer look at the contents that are usually present in junk foods.

1. Toppings

Toppings have high levels of fats, salt, and sugar

Image: iStock

The toppings are sauces, cream, cheese, or blobs of mayonnaise. put on other foods to enhance the taste. These sauces have high levels of salt, fat, and sugar and are unhealthy (1).

2. Processed contents

Junk food is more processed and has fewer natural nutrients. Heavily processed foods are chemically altered with artificial flavors, additives, or other unhealthy ingredients (2). It has very little fiber which gives energy.

3. Fat

Hot dogs, burgers, and sandwiches have slabs of cheese, sauces, and spreads, such as mayonnaise, which contain excessive unhealthy fat and calories without much nutritional value. Most oils used in preparing junk food, including fries, are also very processed. Children require healthy fats from unprocessed sources, such as salmon, extra virgin olive oil, or avocadoes as healthy fats are essential for optimal physical growth and brain development (3).

4. Added sugar

Junk foods and beverages are alarmingly high in added sugar

Image: iStock

The quantities of added sugar in junk food and beverages are alarmingly higher than any other sweet food that we usually consume. The added food colors in the sodas and colas (4).

Top Ten Effects Of Junk Food On Children

Junk food’s effects on the health of children are many and appalling. Here are the top ten reasons how junk food affects children and why you should ensure your child stays away from junk food (5):

1. Increased blood pressure

The sodium in the salt increases blood pressure which may lead to a weak circulatory system.

2. Fatigue

Your child probably gets a feeling of fullness in the tummy while consuming junk food since it lacks carbohydrates and proteins which are imperative to feel energetic. A tired and lethargic child may make it difficult for your child to engage in physical activity or perform daily tasks.

3. Less emotional quotient

Hormonal imbalance is a major change experienced in the growing years of 6-12. Junk would cause problems with hormonal balance leading to mood swings and behavioral changes. Depression is one of the common side effects of junk food in children.

4. Kidney disease

High sodium in food leads to water retention (edema) in the body and causes problems with kidney function. Edema is one of the signs of a dysfunctional kidney.

5. Diabetes

Colas, sodas, and beverages contain high amounts of sugar. The high sugar content may increase the risk of malfunction of insulin secretion and may result in type 2 diabetes during childhood or at a later age.

6. Obesity

Obesity, effects of junk food on children's health

Image: Shutterstock

The fat used for flavoring and seasoning in junk food accumulates in the body and may lead to low energy levels. Low energy levels lead to a lack of physical activity, resulting in obesity and an increased risk of heart ailments. Children may also face issues with self-esteem due to increased weight gain.

7. Digestive disorder

The base of the junk food is more processed and has less natural nutrients. Junk food has very little fiber due to which there is an increased probability of constipation and therefore an increased risk of intestinal disorder or colon cancer at a later age of life.

8. Bone and teeth deformities

Your growing child needs all the core nutrients required for good bone and dental growth. Junk food leads to excess weight on thighs and hips which may make one more prone to an early onset of osteoporosis. High sugar content in junk food may lead to tooth decay in the permanent teeth.

9. Heart disease

Slabs of cheese are the main ingredient in junk food. High-fat increases cholesterol levels and the cholesterol may deposit itself in the blood vessels of the heart. High cholesterol is the root cause of heart diseases and makes one more prone to experience a stroke at a later age.

10. Slow brain functions

Pre-teens have to be in the race to prove better. Junk food lacks the essential nutrients that provide alertness to the brain. Teens may face issues with concentration, lower retention capabilities, and reduced learning abilities.

We Chip-In To Help You, Moms

Negligence in monitoring your kid’s food habits affects their growth in puberty. Lifestyle triggered ailments like breast cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension find their roots at a very early age via unhealthy eating.

It is our endeavor to help you be a better mom to your children. And to make that extra effort to cook up some nutritious food for your family, here are some yummy ideas:

We have food suggestions you can use to bring in newness to your children’s menu.

1. Grilled fish sticks

Grilled fish sticks

Image: Shutterstock

This snack provides fiber and goodness of omega 3 fatty acids together. Moreover, oats are used here which is better accepted by kids.

  • Take a fish filet.
  • Lightly season it with lemon and salt.
  • Coat with wheat powder and roll it in oats.
  • Grill or roast it.

2. Brown bread corn cups

Brown bread corn cups

Image: iStock

Packed with proteins, vitamins, and minerals, this snack is filling and an option for a mid-evening snack.

  • Take a couple of brown bread slices.
  • Cut edges and put in the moulds.
  • Prepare a filling of boiled sweet corn or paneer, diced red and green pepper, grated carrot, and pomegranate seeds.
  • You may add cheese and potatoes.
  • Mix with seasoning of pepper and salt
  • Place it in the bread cups.
  • Top it with grated cheese and bake it.

Variation: Lightly roast the bread and add the filling as a topping.

Fast foods are usually high in salt, sugar, and trans fats. Consuming these ingredients in high amounts can expose a child to several health risks, including obesity, type-2 diabetes, and hypertension. Generally, relishing a burger or a slice of pizza once in a while won’t affect your child’s health. However, you must ensure that this occasional treat doesn’t become a regular habit. To minimize the effects of junk food on children’s health, feed them well-balanced meals containing healthy foods from various food groups.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Choose This, Not That: Healthy & Unhealthy Choices at Fast Food Restaurants
  2. The Many Health Risks of Processed Foods Laborer’s Health and Safety fund Of North America
  3. Fat in children’s food: What you need to know The Hospital For Sick Children
  4. Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  5. Junk food and your health Australian Government Department of Health


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Sadiya Qamar

Sadiya is a writer and editor with a passion for writing about parenthood and children. Her focus areas are health, wellness, and beauty. For MomJunction, she writes on kids’ health and nutrition.  Sadiya believes in doing in-depth research and providing accurate information to help parents with concerns on their children’s growth and development.

Dina Totosegis

Dina Totosegis is a registered dietitian specializing in pediatrics. She has graduated from McGill University with Bachelors in Physiology as well as Dietetics and Human Nutrition. She started working in wellness clinics and fitness clubs in Montreal, Canada, and Austin, US, helping individuals establish a healthy way of life through nutritious food, an active lifestyle, and a positive mindset.  Since...
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