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How India's top junk food joints are ruining your child's health

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : March 20, 2015 6:27 PM IST

Childhood obesity is becoming a global health crisis. Rates of obesity in India have tripled in the last two decades. Research shows that 23.9 percent of Indian children suffer from obesity and are overweight. According to the report submitted by Zeeshan Ali, PhD from Washington DC, fast food culture is now spreading widely in India, about as fast as rates of type 2 diabetes, which will affect one in ten people by 2035 according to a recent report from International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Additional research from British Medical Journal shows that overweight trends in kids link directly to heart disease, the number one killer worldwide.

The IDF also reported that 65 million people in India are suffering from diabetes. Part of the problem is easy access to high-fat, low-fibre and high-cholesterol meals. Fast food restaurant chains like Domino s, KFC, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut continue to expand. Comparing current number of fast food outlets and number of fast food outlets five years back we found out:

  • Pizza Hut now operates in 46 Indian cities with 181 restaurants and 132 home delivery locations (a 67 percent increase in the last 5 years)
  • KFC is now in 73 cities with 296 restaurants, a huge 770 percent increase
  • McDonalds is in 61 Indian cities with 242 restaurants as compared to 126 restaurants five years back (a 92 percent increase)
  • Domino s is now operating in 650 outlets as compared to 207 food chains which dominated urban Indian areas in 2008 which is almost 200 percent increase

According to a recent study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research, the Indian fast food market is growing at the rate of 30-35 percent per annum.

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Whether it s a Sunday evening meal with family, a birthday party, anniversary or a celebration after a victorious cricket match, fast food advertisers encourage Indians, especially children, to visit their restaurants and order items rich in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. This is at odds with dietary recommendations from the World Health Organization, which highlights tobacco use, an unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes and raised lipids as controllable risk factors for chronic disease. Here are 12 superfoods that can boost your child's immunity.

A recent order from Delhi High court has constituted a panel to frame guidelines on sale of junk food in school canteens. The Delhi High court order aims to eliminate the sale of fast food within 500 yards of the school premises. The High court verdict stated that the junk food not only promotes obesity but also other diseases and critical disorders.

Physicians with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) urge Indian families to opt for healthy meal options, such as Pasta Mint Salad from Pizza hut or '5 pepper pizza,' hold the cheese from Domino s. Menu items rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes will save calories and offer healthy doses of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Studies show plant-based diets may improve mood and can also reduce the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Here are five practical ways to tame a fussy eater.

Here are some of the shocking findings:

PCRM dietitians evaluated heavily promoted fast food products served to kids in India by analyzing the nutrient information found on company websites, and they found that many food items contain astonishingly high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. PCRM dietitians offer recipe makeovers and menu swaps to help Indians navigate heart-healthy, waist-friendly options at their favorite outlets.

Here are five shockingly unhealthful products and suggested makeovers:

Hot Wings

342.3 calories, 22.96 grams of fat, 8.46 grams of saturated fat, 1080 milligrams of sodium

This meal features cholesterol-laden chicken wings fried in oil. 60% of the calories come from fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total calories from fat to 25-30 percent. Instead of Hot Wings opt for Toasted Wrap Twister with lettuce and tomatoes but without chicken. You ll save 125 calories, 10.86 grams of fat, and increase fibre intake by 156 percent.

Chicken Maharaja Mac

525 calories, 26 grams of fat, 1010 milligrams of sodium

The king of burgers is not only big in size but also big in nutrient content- it is laced with 1010 mg of sodium and 26g of fat. 50 percent of the calories are contributed by fat. According to recent reports 35-45 percent of calories when derived from fats can lead to coronary heart diseases. Instead we recommend ordering Veg McMuffin. Skip the cheese and you ll have a heart-healthy meal with less than 300 calories and only 9 grams of fat.

Classic Caesar Salad

445 calories, 24 grams of fat, 6.5 grams of saturated fat, 1370 milligrams of sodium

Pizza hut says 'Salads just got bigger' while dietitians secretly think 'Salads just got fattier and saltier'. This salad offers half of its calories from fats and maxes out your recommended sodium intake for the entire day. You can swap classic Caesar Salad with Pasta Mint Salad where only 5% of total calories come from fat as compared to 50% calories from fats in Classic Caesar Salad. You ll also save 45 calories and enjoy a cholesterol-free meal.

Chicken golden delight pizza (medium):

1750 calories, 65 grams of fat, 32 grams of saturated fat, 2570 milligrams of sodium

This appetizer is loaded with calories, saturated fats and sodium much higher than that recommended by Institute of Medicine (IOM) for a child s lunch. According to IOM report released in 2009 lunches for children in grades six-eight should not have more than 700 calories and 740 milligrams of sodium. According to a recent report published in Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) people who are obese have a 29% increased risk of premature death. We recommend 5 pepper pizza without cheese which is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants without compromising on the flavor.

Choco Chip Cookie Sundae

1087 calories, 47 grams fat, 26 grams saturated fat

This high-calorie dessert is a real nutrient shocker as it storms your body with 1087 calories, which is half the number of calories recommended for an adult each day. Clinical research shows that dairy products actually have little or no benefit for bones. A recent Harvard study finds study participants who consumed dairy products, including low-fat, skim, and whole milk and cheese products, as teenagers had a 9 percent increased risk for hip fractures later in life.

A study published in Indian Journal of Pediatrics in 2011 reported that obesity in childhood causes hypertension and metabolic syndrome leaving them at higher risk to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Diets built from grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes are healthful, inexpensive, satisfying to children, and offer the most disease-fighting protection of any dietary pattern. Nourishing foods are critical to childhood development. Dietary modifications at an early age can allow for a child s optimal development and a reduction in risk factors for disease later in life.

Image courtesy: Getty Images


1. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010.

2. Freedman DS, Kettel L, Serdula MK, Dietz WH, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS. The relation of childhood BMI to adult adiposity: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Pediatrics. 2005;115:22-27.

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