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Discouraging consumption of junk food among children

Nileena M.S.
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Many schools have already taken steps towards avoiding such food items

RISKY BITE?: Health specialists frown upon the increasing tendency to give children food that has very little nutritional value. — File Photo: K. Ananthan
RISKY BITE?: Health specialists frown upon the increasing tendency to give children food that has very little nutritional value. — File Photo: K. Ananthan

Junk food always tops the list when kids are asked about their favourite food. Lining the shops in tempting flavours, attractive colours and packages, they easily capture the imagination of children. Realising the ill-effects of their increasing share in youngsters' diet, the Delhi High Court has directed the Central Government to initiate steps to ban junk food and carbonated drinks in school and college canteens.

According to Subathraa Sundar, chief dietician at K.G. Hospital, junk food is high in calorie but low in nutritional value. Children are physically less active these days and when combined with this, consumption of junk food causes obesity, cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Bingeing on food items like pizzas and burgers take a toll on their health, she adds.

Studies reveal that though many junk food items contain vegetables and other protein-rich food, the way of preparation and excess use of certain ingredients make them unhealthy. Though, many schools in the city have already taken steps towards reducing the consumption of junk food among students, some are yet to wake up to the importance of the issue.

R. Baby, principal of National Model Matriculation School, says that they frequently conduct programmes to create awareness among students and parents about the importance of healthy diet.

“We don't allow junk food and carbonated drinks in the canteen. The class teachers stay with students during lunch time and make sure that everyone has included at least one vegetable dish in their diet,” she adds.

Schools with mid-day meal schemes say that most students prefer to take lunch provided at the school which is served hot. Many schools agree that snacks like puffs, bondas and samosas are unavoidable as teachers and other staff members also like to have them during break time. Though tomato rice, chapatti, kitchdi, aval upma and sundal are available in canteen,

Karthik. S, a Standard XII student, says that at times he likes to have a bite of bread bajji. “They don't sell chocolates in our canteen,” he complains. School managements do not give proper directions to ensure the supply of healthy and hygienic food while leasing out canteens “Chilli gobi, potato chips, chocolates and soft drinks are always in demand,” says the canteen owner at a school that has students from L.K.G to Standard XII. “Except for paying rent on time, the management has not laid down any rules,” she adds.

In many cases, the schools share the compound with other institutions run by the same management. The school authorities refuse to take the responsibility of supplying healthy food in canteens citing the reason that it is not just for students. Shops nearby schools that serve fast food also target students.

“Vegetables, fruits, pulses, cereals and milk should be included in children's diet. We should be careful about artificially ripened fruits. Instead of soft drinks, fresh juice can be included in their diet, says Ms. Sundar. Mariam Vijay, mother of a U.K.G student, says that she discourages her child from eating in canteen. Rice, grams and vegetables are usually packed for lunch.

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