5 toxins you are feeding to your child
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It’s not your fault. You believe what you see and they don’t show you the truth. I often see a mom getting worried about their child’s eating habits and general behavior.

“My daughter is a fussy eater” or, “my child doesn’t like to eat home food” or “my son is hyperactive”

Do you face the same?

Well, it’s been proved that feeding “worst foods” (not wrong even if you call them toxins) is largely responsible for this poor eating habit and behavioral problems.

5 toxins in your child‘s diet

Any combination of these 5 toxins are often cheap, save your cooking time, super tasty, kids eat without making a fuss. It gives all that you have long for.

Yes, you have guessed it right. I am talking about any processed and packaged food which contains a mixture of these worst ingredients –

  • Refined carbohydrate
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined salt
  • Refined oil
  • Trans fat

If you have read till now, I will suggest you go to the kitchen and get a pack of processed food. Come back with the packet and continue reading.

Confused what is processed food? Well, it’s the ALL that needs no cooking or take just 5 mins to prepare.

5 toxins you are feeding to your child - all processed and packaged foods
Ready to eat packaged & processed foods Ready to cook packaged & processed foods
All the Biscuits – starting from your “healthy” Marie to exotic choco-filling cookies Any 2 minutes Instant noodles with tastemaker
Crunchy items like Chips, Nachos, Bhujia, Khakra, Mixture, etc Instant Pasta, instant corn flakes, instant soup, etc.
Cornflakes, Museli, Chocos, etc Instant upma, instant cake mix, and other such instant food packets
Chocolate, chocolate spread, Jam, Jelly  
Soft drinks, fruit juices, vegetable juices  

It’s high time to look at the back

Got your packet? Now just turn it back and try to check the ingredient list.

Have you ever checked the back of any processed food? It’s the place you should be checked whenever you go for grocery shopping. I know It’s a bit difficult as the font size is very small to read. Well, that’s the game.

Position matters

Generally, ingredients are placed in the list based on their added amount. The ingredient used in the maximum in the product gets the first position.

Now, check the ingredient list of the packet that you have just got from the kitchen. Check the first 4-5 ingredients. Follow the table below to understand better.

Worst ingredient Example
Refined carbohydrate Refined flour (maida)
Refined sugar and other form of sugar Sugar, sucrose/ High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)/ Barley malt/Corn syrup/Corn syrup solids/Dextrin/ Dextrose/ Ethyl maltol/ Glucose/ Glucose solids/ Lactose/ Malt syrup/ Maltodextrin/ Maltose/ Rice syrup/ Crystalline fructose/ Fructose/ Galactose
Refined oil Refined Palm oil/ soyabean oil/cottonseed oil/corn and palmolein oil
Refined salt Salt

Does your packet contain any 3 of these names? Yes? Then you must be careful now. Why? Read the article till the end to get the complete information.

5 toxins you are feeding to your child - always check the back

Why refined carbohydrate is worst for your child?

Carbohydrate is not bad. You need carbs to run your body. A balanced diet suggests getting 60% of your daily energy from carbohydrates. Your child is not an exception.

  • Read the heading twice. It’s all about choosing the right quality of the carbs.
  • Refined carbs are also called processed carbs or simple sugar.
  • Refined carbs have no fiber, vitamins or minerals as they lose it all during processing. These are nothing but “empty calorie”
  • Refined carbs get digested very fast, have a high glycemic index. That consumption of blood sugar and insulin level spike rapidly
  • Since refined carbs get digested quickly, one feels hungry more often and tend to overeat.
  • Consuming more carbohydrate comparable to actual requirements leads to transforming into fat and deposited in cells.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), poor memory, etc has been associated with a high intake of processed carbs. (1,2)

Fact check of a few common foods that you may have bought last week to save time also to keep your child happy

Biscuits (2 no) Energy (Kcal) Carbohydrate(g) 1st ingredient in the list
Milk bikis 110.67 15.11 Refined flour
Good Day butter cookies 74.10 10.05 Refined flour
Bourbon 90.09 13.29 Refined flour
Jimjam 107.33 16.22 Refined flour
Oreo 96.00 14.06 Refined flour
Hide & seek 52.25 8.01 Refined flour
Munchies (30 g i.e 1 handful approx) Energy (Kcal) Carbohydrate(g) 1st ingredient in the list
Lays Classic salt 166.2 15.51 Potato
Lays magic masala 166.5 15.36 Potato
Kurkure masala munch 167.4 16.56 Refined flour
Instant noodles/pasta/soup (30 g- approx 1 handful) Energy (Kcal) Carbohydrate(g) 1st ingredient in the list
Maggi 128.1 19.05 Refined flour
Top ramon 138.6 19.38 Refined flour
Wai wai 141.3 18.48 Refined flour
Yipee 140.4 18.78 Refined flour
Pazzala cheese macaroni 105.3 20.49 Semolina
Masala pasta 108.6 22.662 Semolina
Mix veg soup 100.8 21.96 Starch
Sweet corn soup 102.9 22.59 Starch
Breakfast cereal (30 g- approx 1 handful) Energy (Kcal) Carbohydrate(g) 1st ingredient in the list
Chocos 117 25.47 Refined flour
Kallogs cornflakes original 114 26.1 Corn grits

Why excessive refined sugar is bad your child?

Sugar is not bad. What I mean is if you are adding a tsp of sugar in milk is not bad. But when consumed in excess creates a mess. As mentioned before food companies add sugar in the product using 65 various names like :

Sugar, sucrose/ High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)/ Barley malt/Corn syrup/Corn syrup solids/Dextrin/ Dextrose/ Ethyl maltol/ Glucose/ Glucose solids/ Lactose/ Malt syrup/ Maltodextrin/ Maltose/ Rice syrup/ Crystalline fructose/ Fructose/ Galactose

Sugar is an essential ingredient in any processed food to make it addictive. A study conducted by Princeton University in 2008 showed that a high intake of sugar makes changes in the brain similar to the intake of cocaine in animal experiments. (34)

There are numerous reasons to avoid consuming excess sugar. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, premature aging, poor skin and dental health, fatty liver, lack of concentration, impaired memory, etc., to even cancer has been associated with excess sugar intake. (5, 6)

5 toxins you are feeding to your child- soft drinks are nothing but sugar

Sugar check of Few foods that you may have bought as a reward or for better health of your child –

Items Sugar Content(g) No of tsp (approx) Positioning of sugar
Coca Cola (200 ml) 20 g 4 tsp 3
Sprite (200 ml) 20 g 4 tsp 2
Fanta (200 ml) 25 g 5 tsp 2
Chocolate (13.2g – the small one) 8.4 g 1.5 tsp 1
(Classic) (2 tbs)
25 g 5 tsp 2
(Original) (2 tbs)
13.5 g 2.5 tsp 4
Growth (2 tbs)
26.9 g 5 tsp 2
Bournvita (2 tbs) 32 g 6.5 tsp 2
Boost (2 tbs) 9.5 g 2 tsp 2
Amul Pro(2 tbs) 32.7 g 6.5 tsp 2
Pediasure (2 tbs) 24.51 g 5 tsp 2
V Nourish
Choco cookie (2 tbs)
52.95 g 10.5 tsp 1
Packaged Orange juice (200ml) 24 g 5 tsp 3
Packaged Pomegranate juice 20 g 4 tsp 3

How much sugar your child need?

 As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the calorie requirement of Indian children is as follows –

Child’s age Maximum limit of
free sugar per day
(visible or hidden)
Maximum no of tsp
of sugar allowed per
day from all sources
(visible or hidden)
4-6 yr 34 g 6-7 tsp
7-9 yr 42 g 8 tsp
10-12 yr (Boy) 55 g 11 tsp
10-12 yr (Girl) 50 g 10 tsp
13- 15 yr (Boy) 69 g 14 tsp
13- 15 yr (Girl) 58 g 11 tsp

Reference- Nutritive Value of Indian Foods, NIN, 2016

Why too much-refined salt is like toxin for your child?

A few years back a study published in the Journal of hypertension showed that Indians in average consume 119% more salt than WHO recommended daily (7)

Your child is no exception. After all the food is coming from the same kitchen or from outside to save time.

WHO strongly recommends the intake of a maximum of 2 g of sodium, which will come from 5 g of salt per day to reduce the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and coronary heart diseases. For children, they have recommended keeping the sodium level lower than 2 g per day based on energy requirement(8)

What does that mean? It means you have to keep you and your child’s daily sodium content below 2000 mg. Refined salt is sodium chloride. Our major dietary sodium comes from common salt used in every single food.

There are multiple studies which, show that a reduction in daily salt intake helps in controlling high blood pressure. (9,10)

5 toxins you are feeding to your child - instant soup are loaded with sodium

Let’s check the sodium content of few “yummy” foods that you often make for saving time –

Food Items Sodium Content (mg) in 30 gms- approx 1 handful
Lays Classic salt 153.00
Lays crunchy onion 222.60
Lays magic masala 244.50
Kurkure masala munch 267.60
Maggi 351.6
Wai wai 384
Maggi Magic fusian 384
Pazzala cheese macaroni 404.34
Masala pasta 840
Packaged Mix veg soup 1810.8
Packaged Sweet corn soup 1257
Packaged classic  soup 1815
Packaged Hot & sour soup 1272

What is so bad about refined oil?

The market is flooded with refined oils which are mostly different vegetable oil.

These oils are extracted and treated at various levels to get a colorless, odorless transparent liquid called refined oil. It’s needless to say after going through vigorous processing with chemicals, all its phytonutrients get destroyed. The structure of fatty acids also gets changed to a certain extent.

If you follow advertisement then you must have heard about omega-6-fatty acid, omega-3-fatty acid.

These are essential for body functions including brain health. The ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids is 1:1. However, analyzing our current diet habit it has been found that the ratio has gone up to 1:20 at present. (11)

Excessive intake of omega -6-fatty acid leads to chronic inflammation causing diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc from an early age.

Oils those are high in omega-6-fatty acids are-

  • Soybean oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil

Besides containing a high amount of omega-6, refined oils are very susceptible to oxidation, which contains fragile fatty acids that are broken down easily with heat and form harmful chemicals. That is why reheating oil is a big no-no during cooking.

The positioning of refined oil in the ingredient list of your few go-to foods-

Food Items Positioning of Refined oil
Biscuits (sweet) 3
Biscuits (salty) 2
Instant noodle/pasta 2
Packaged snacks, chips, munchies 2

What is trans fat? Why it is considered as a potent toxin for everyone?

Food producers use vegetable oil in their products and often apply a hydrogenation method to harden the liquid oil. This method changes the structure of the fatty acids and generates trans fat.

These trans fats are responsible for creating chronic inflammation and leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. (12)

Common foods that contain trans fat are –

  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Baked product
  • Margarine
5 toxins you are feeding to your child - don't go by the looks, choose snack wisely

But kids love these foods… what to do?

  • Kids imitate adults. So you stop buying packaged and processed foods. It’s bad for everyone. It provides no good whatever be the advertisement’s claims. Rather, it makes your kid addictive, fat, and prone to develop diabetes, hypertension at a very young age. ,,
  • Stop rewarding kids with these foods rather than encourage a field trip or any outdoor activity as a reward. You kids need to play more outside for absorbing nutrients better.
  • Too busy to cook… Instant foods help to save time especially for snacking
  • Prioritize what you want. If you choose an unfit body, a box of medicine, multiple lifestyle disorders with poor quality of life then go for saving 30 minutes every day.
  • But if you want your kids, family to be happy healthy abstain from all these empty calories.
  • Why don’t you start planning your meal? It works. Shop according to plan. Spend the least amount and time on the row containing packaged foods. Buy fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain, pulses, nut, seeds, eggs, fish, etc.

You may think of adding the following items in your weekly meal plan –

Healthy snack ideas Healthy drink ideas
Banana, Guava or any local seasonal fruit Fresh sugarcane juice, coconut water, lemon water
Roasted nuts, seeds (without salt – not more than one fistful) Buttermilk
Poha/upma/dalia with vegetables Milk with jaggery, roasted peanut powder
Roasted murmura/chirwa Sattu water
Fruit chaat Ragi drink
Sprout chaat Fresh vegetable-fruit juice

My kids don’t like healthy homemade food

Why? That’s the question you must ask yourself. It was you or any of your family members who exposed your kid with all these processed junk. It’s easy to say but needs effort and dedication to maintain a healthy eating habit today especially when there are so many unhealthy options all around.

It will take some time to make your kid adjusted to a healthy eating routine. Have patience. Make it a family affair where everyone should motivate each other to stay on track. I know it’s a bit hypothetical. But at least start trying.

5 toxins you are feeding to your child- never say no to homemade food

Bottom line

Next time whenever you will buy a pack of biscuits or noodles, remember you are buying obesity, poor gut health, poor concentration and memory for your kid. Always check the backside of the pack and then decide to buy or not.

Eat and feed natural fresh food as per season and local availability. Plan your weekly diet to bring variety. Encourage kids to play outside. They will be fine. All the best.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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