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Greasy fast food may not be healthy, but there’s no denying it is extremely tasty. Thanks to a long list of questionable additives, every bite is an explosion of delicious flavor. From an evolutionary perspective, we are hardwired to like junk food as a survival mechanism. That’s the reason chemicals and neurotransmitters released in our body induce us to eat more than we normally do every time we smell, see, or eat junk food.
Even though people realize junk food is not a healthy option, that does not deter them from consuming a variety of greasy fast foods. Even worse, it is given to children at school. In some parts of the world, some parents actually pack junk or fast food in their children’s lunchbox to have as a meal or snack in school.
We have to admit junk food, processed food, and fast foods have become an unavoidable part of our lives. But should they really be the only option for school kids?
Junk Food at School
Considering how busy we are in this age of technology, snacking on fast food and junk food is a solution for many. Snacking-on-the-move has become a way of life for people in a hurry. While junk food is popular globally, there is growing concern about it being consumed by youngsters, and whether these foods should be banned in schools. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 implemented requires United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to maintain healthy nutrition standards for foods sold in schools.
The USDA's Smart Snacks Program
The USDA's Smart Snacks Program, which focuses on food sold in schools, has been in effect since 2014. The program aims to give children healthier snack options. The program also regulates the different types of food and snacks sold at the school canteen, food store, or any another venue in the school where children get food.
The program brings science-based nutrition guidelines to schools, highlighting practical and logical solutions that promote healthy eating habits on campus. It has guidelines about which types of foods should be encouraged and promoted and which foods should be avoided. The program also has guidelines for portion sizes and caffeine content limits suitable for kids.
While measures are being taken to implement healthy snacking and nutrition for school children the fact remains that different types of unhealthy junk food or fast food are extremely popular in schools. What’s rather concerning is the fact that many schools in the US and other countries have vending machines that sell junk food in schools. The question often asked is should the sale of junk food be banned in schools or allowed in schools. The school of thought in regard with this question differs. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with junk food in schools. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Find out in the lines below.
5 Reasons Junk Food Should Be Allowed In School: Pros
1. Because It's Important for Children to Eat Something
Every child is different and has their own very particular likes and dislikes in regards to food. Kids cannot be pressurized to eat what they do not like. Research shows that children do not like eating nutritional meals and are likely to skip their meal or waste their food if they don't like it. If a child does not eat in school, they are likely to have depleted energy and immunity levels.
Most kids are happy to eat when they snack on greasy burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs. It is a satisfying and reassuring feeling for parents to know their child eats something at school rather than staying hungry, even if it means junk food.
If your child loves junk food, let him/her have a little bit of it in school. Junk food, when consumed in moderation, is not a bad thing.
2. Junk Food Is Easier and Cheaper
Some parents pack a lunchbox of snacks made at home for their children. Sometimes parents are too busy. In times like these, most children will love to find fast food burgers or sandwiches in their lunch bag. Junk food is an easy, tasty, less expensive, and convenient option for children who have busy parents.
3. Vending Machines Are Profitable for Schools
Installing vending machines that offer snacks is a useful and profitable option for schools. It is easy and convenient for children to buy cheap junk snacks from a vending machine, and a sizable profit is made. This profit can be used to improve the school's facilities.
4. Healthy Ingredients Can Eliminate the Junk in Junk Food
Junk food has a bad reputation because of its unhealthy and greasy content. Certain preservatives and ingredients are added to processed food to increase its shelf life. But schools can ensure that their meals are made fresh with healthy ingredients. Using the right oil and the optimal temperature for cooking ensures less penetration of the oil in the foods. Not many children like to see vegetables on their plate at school, but children don't mind eating mixed vegetables when they are made into a patty and put between burger buns. There are innovative ways to make "junk" food healthy. If the choice of ingredients is healthy, the junk in junk food can be eliminated.
5. There Should Be a Freedom of Choice for Kids in Schools
Strict rules and policies in regard to junk food is not a solution. It’s not right to limit the freedom of choice of school students. Research shows that schools that implement a ‘no junk food' policy have a higher number of kids that do not eat, either because they do not like the healthy meals served in the cafeteria or because they can't afford those options. Ideally, the food options given to children should be as varied as possible. Restrictions on junk food in school compel children to stay hungry. Kids feel uneasy in an environment when foods they want to eat are not available. Eating food they like should be a freedom of choice for children in school.
5 Reasons Junk Food Should Be Banned In School: Cons
1. Junk Food Leads to Obesity
Junk foods usually have a high level of salt, fat, calories, and sugar and offer limited nutritional value. Consumption of unhealthy foods on a regular basis leads to obesity. The amounts of fats and sugar in junk are alarmingly high. Children are at a risk of gaining weight and becoming obese if they consume foods high in sugar, carbs, and salts. Junk foods often do not include dietary fibers and other vital nutrients that play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy body. As a result, consuming junk food results in weight gain at a rapid pace and increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart diseases, diabetes, and different forms of arthritis. Obese children that consume large amounts of junk food regularly are at high risk of suffering a heart attack in early adulthood.
2. Children Get Habituated to Unhealthy Eating
When children get habituated to eating junk food, it becomes extremely difficult for them to get accustomed to eating healthy foods. Children who eat junk food every day find it difficult to enjoy a healthy meal that consists of lean meats, salads, leafy greens, or other vegetables. Junk food has a synthetic taste that is very addictive. Children who eat junk food regularly get habituated to a certain type and amount of flavor and find it difficult to adjust to balanced meals with nutritional value.
Foods such as burgers, fries, salted snacks, fried food, pizzas, candies, and carbonated drinks or sodas get children addicted to a certain taste. Children eating these foods every day get habituated to a cycle of unhealthy food habits. 7 out of 10 children carry their unhealthy junk food habit into adulthood. Habituated tendencies can turn into addictions. Eating junk food becomes a survival mechanism for many and in the long run leads to a number of health issues.
3. Junk-Food Eaters Risk of Damage to Heart and Liver
Children who carry their junk food habit to adulthood are at higher risk of liver damage and heart attack. Junk foods have exceedingly high levels of sodium and fat that contribute towards raised cholesterol levels and buildup of arterial plaque. This in turn can bring about drastic changes in the circulatory system, thereby fluctuating blood pressure levels and increasing the risk of suffering a stroke. Junk food is also a source of trans fatty acids that lead to fat deposits in the liver and pose a set of varied liver problems.
4. Junk-Food Eaters Have a Higher Risk of Acquiring Diabetes in Adulthood
Children that consume junk food regularly are at high risk of developing diabetes in adulthood. Different types of junk food prevent proper absorption of healthy nutrients and minerals, thereby affecting metabolism function and resulting in a weakened immune system. When the metabolism rate is altered drastically, a number of health problems crop up. A wide variety of deep fried foods when consumed often can lead to insulin resistance and over a period of time lead to Type 2 diabetes and hyperglycemia. Addiction to junk foods and fast foods can also affect hormonal activity and lead to hormonal imbalance. Furthermore, excessive consumption of greasy foods lead to health problems associated with kidney, liver, weakened immunity, blood pressure and cholesterol.
5. Regular Consumption of Junk Food Causes Gastric Problems
Different types of gastrointestinal problems are associated with excessive consumption of junk food. Flatulence is a common problem among children and adults who eat junk foods and fast food on a daily basis. Constipation is also a problem among children who eat excessive junk food. It’s a known fact that junk foods and processed foods offer little in terms of dietary fiber which constitutes healthy and natural bowel movement. The lack of sufficient fiber in the body can cause different gastric problems associated with gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, bloating, and flatulence. Furthermore, kids that consume fast foods that contain spicy sauces, pastes and pickles, are at risk of suffering from digestive disorders such as acid reflux and gerd.
The arguments put forth in the aforementioned lines are based in favor of allowing junk food in school, and in favor of a ban on junk food in schools. This article aims to bring about an impact on consumption choices keeping in mind pros and cons associated with junk food. Whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa depend entirely on perspective. Draw your own conclusions based on what you feel is right and wrong. Are you in favor of junk food in schools or against it? If you feel strongly about this issue and want to voice your opinion, feel free to do so in the comments section.
Let your opinion be an honest account of what you truly feel about junk food in school. Your opinion is valuable and will in many ways help evaluate the system, administration and guidelines associated with food served in schools. Children in school are not aware about balancing their food habits the right way, and hopefully will be able to help themselves with choices of food through this article. The intention of the argument/debate is to bring about awareness in regard with advantages and disadvantages of junk food for children in schools.
© 2019 Ansel Pereira
Lorna Lamon on August 20, 2019:
This is an interesting article and even though I believe that 'everything in moderation' is the best way to go, I cannot see that eating junk food in school is a good idea. These foods are full of sugar and other additives which make them addictive. There is an obesity epidemic in children in the UK and surely a healthy diet in schools would be a good place to ensure a healthier future for these children.