Youngsters go for junk food for price, convenience

Youngsters go for junk food for price, convenience

WHO has called for tighter monitoring of digital marketing to protect children and adolescents from food high in sugar, salt and fat. Metrolife gets a Bengaluru street perspective.

Experts say that because healthy food is more expensive than junk food, many opt for the latter. Restaurateurs add that they sell more burgers than salads.

According to Priya Keshari and C P Mishra’s study titled “Growing menace of fast food consumption in India: time to act”, India is gorging on junk food, and that is disastrous for health.

Bengaluru streets are lined with restaurants and fast food joints. Salads are present on most menus, but they don’t sell as much as junk items. 

The manager of a popular restaurant says healthy food is more expensive than junk food, and that is one reason many opt for the latter. He sells at least three times as many burgers as salads.

“Junk food is high fat, sugar and salt, which may make it more palatable and satisfying, but it creates a vicious cycle of sugar addiction like cocaine,”  says nutritionist Dr Priyanka Rohatgi.

A myth is that professionals between 25 and 35 are aware and prefer healthy food over junk. On the contrary, they end up ordering fast food as it is convenient and easy to take away.

Shantanu, owner of C# Kitchen on Church Street, says fast food is quick and ready, and so many customers prefer it to items that take longer to make. “Though it is not good to have something like this every day, many still have it,” he says.

Everyone knows what a burger or pasta is, and the restaurant doesn’t have to explain anything. “But if I have a Chinese item on the menu customers might not know anything about it,” Shantanu says.

Junk items become comfort food and people tend to crave them.

Akshay Kulkarni, Culinary Academy of India, says junk food is typically deep-fried, and not boiled or steamed.

“We are talking about using a lot of refined flour (maida) instead of whole-wheat flour. So though they taste good, in the long-term they are definitely going to take a toll,” he explains. 

Youngsters between 16 and 25, interviewed on MG Road and Church Street, unanimously say they eat pizzas and burgers outside as they get healthy food at home.

Researchers of Penn State University have linked high sugary food with bipolar disorder and depression.

Poonam Gopiram, psychology facilitator, DRS International School, says junk food causes psychological stress.

“We tend to eat junk food when we are upset or low, hoping we will feel better, but it only provides us with temporary relief and later on causes irritability,” she says.

There is enough evidence that junk food affects memory, results in obesity, and ruins psychological well being, she says.

As Kulkarni elaborates, “It’s like if I ask you to choose between French fries, wafers and boiled potatoes, you are likely to choose the first two over the last because they are crisper in texture. They contain a lot of oil which the body accepts. You tend to crave more, which is not the same case with fruits or salads.”

Nutrition and wellness consultant Sheela Krishnaswamy says long-term effects of junk food include increase in body weight, leading to problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and joint pain. “It could also lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies,”

The best way to tackle this growing dependency on junk food is by creating an environment that supports healthy eating habits. A balanced and healthy diet should be inculcated from a young age, say experts.   

Bad stuff

Junk food is typically deep-fried, high in sugar, and made from refined flour. A new study conducted by experts in Boston University, USA, analysed the link between consumption of fast foods and the rise in obesity over the last 30 years. Researchers observed that compared to the past, the portion size and the number of calories per plate had risen remarkably, which in turn, gave rise to unhealthy habits and lifestyle.

Most consumed junk foods

- Chocolates

- Candies

- Cookies

- Doughnuts

- Cake

- Pastries

(According to Nutritionist Dr Priyanka Rohatgi and Akshay Kulkarni, Culinary Academy of India)

WHO concerns

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for stricter monitoring of digital marketing of unhealthy food products, primarily those high in salt, sugar and fat, alcohol and tobacco.

WHO came to notice the amount of time children spend online has been slowly increasing, thereby increasing their vulnerability to digital marketing of unhealthy products.

Monitoring of such advertisement is necessary since consumption of junk is associated with a wide array of health issues. Much of these diseases can be prevented if risk factors are addressed early on.

Indian diet far from ideal

With one of the youngest populations and fastest growing economies, India is also becoming the diabetic capital of the world, and more adults are dying of stroke and cancer than ever before. The problem lies in our diet, say doctors. Indians are eating a diet far from ideal, according to the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. We consume more carbohydrates, less protein (both animal and plant-based) and less fruit and vegetables than necessary. Indians also binge on sugar-rich and processed food.