Will the prohibition of junk food make children look for healthier alternatives?

It has become a norm for young people these days to eat fast food while hanging out with their friends. Unlike the past, children now have more pocket money to buy food from outside and working parents, who are stuck for time to cook lunch for their children, also play a role in enabling these eating habits. The craving for processed foods among young people has now resulted in an unhealthy and obese generation and recently forced the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to submit regulations regarding schoolchildren's diet.

As part of the Eat Right project, the nodal agency has banned the sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar in school canteens, canteens, hostel kitchens and within a 50-meter radius of the school campus. As an additional measure to curb consumption of, FSSAI has also proposed to review the menu of school cafes and nurseries.

Will the prohibition of junk food in schools persuade students to consume healthier alternatives?

Teachers and nutritionists share the view that parents should cultivate the policy of no junk food from home. Thiruvananthapuram-based clinical dietitian, Mini Mary Prakash, says many parents want to see their children get fat. “They ask why they should ban their children from eating something? This is the age to eat. But what they don't understand is that eating unhealthy foods makes children obese and diabetic early. The young years are like the foundations of a building. Then, if it's not strong enough, the entire building will collapse, says Mini.

By the way, she says that it is the parents who encourage their children to eat outside. Most parents complain that their children are reluctant to eat ice cream and other fast food items such as hamburgers, pizzas and french fries, he says. “I think parents should strive to divert their children's eating habits to homemade products. For example, instead of wrappers, they could give chapathi rolls or whole-grain sandwiches and fruit juices. ”

As part of the new regulations, a team from the Network of Food and Nutrition Professionals, an initiative of FSSAI, will visit schools to educate children and parents about the need to switch to good eating habits, says Mini.

Many dining rooms in the state have already made plans to change their menu. Rajeev Menon, corporate chef of a leading educational institute in Kochi, says the new regulation is a revolutionary change but also has many economic implications.

Rajeev says that it is the quality of the ingredients that turns certain snacks into garbage. “In foreign countries, hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches, cheese, pasta, noodles and rolls are staple foods. But when the hamburger is made of low quality flour and cheese with added flavors, it becomes unhealthy. Children require a minimum of 1,600 calories, and if prepared well, these foods can also be healthy for them. For example, pizza dough can be replaced with multiple grains or wheat, and you can use less cheese and more vegetables, says the chef, adding that his institute is already following a healthy menu with salads, fruits and juices fresh. , and has avoided packaged chips in their canteens.

Supporting Rajeev is Suja S, a kindergarten teacher at a school in Peyad, Thiruvananthapuram, who recently organized a program called Healthy Go Wealthy, according to the FSSAI Eat Right campaign. “We watched the day to encourage students to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Many parents still pack fresh fruits as snacks for children. In support of regulation, we also eliminate all kinds of packaged foods and other bottled juices from the canteen, ”says the teacher.

Meanwhile, most parents praise the ban on junk food as a good initiative. Sumitha Sanjayan, an IT professional and mother of a 13-year-old boy, says they give the children money to eat while they skip breakfast due to tuition classes early in the morning. “However, children only opt for hamburgers and pizzas because they think they are tastier. My daughter buys these even from her school canteen. We can control their eating habits only when they surround us. But if they get these foods in their school canteen, they will surely yearn for them, ”says Sumitha, urging schools to promote naadan snacks like kozhukatta, ada, unniyappam, vada and pazhampori along with tea and coffee.

Some students are also sure that they would opt for naadan snacks, if they are healthier. Class 11 student Amritha Sajeev, from a reputed ICSE school in Thiruvananthapuram, says: “I know many friends who skip lunch at home to eat junk food in our canteen. But if we get good bread toast, less oily pazhampori, homemade cakes, chops, crispy and beautiful frosts, then we have no other option to buy those items.

On how healthy naadan snacks are compared to the items of junk food mentioned by FSSAI, Mini says: “Anything fried using oil repeatedly is not healthy. Even in our homes, if we cook using the same oil in which we prepare 10 fords the day before, it will contain chemicals. In addition, it is good to opt for coconut oil than sunflower and corn oil, since the latter results in transfat in people. Then, the best alternatives to junk food would be boiled sweet potatoes, boiled bananas, yams, ada and kozhukatta. ”