Processed Food Epidemic: 6 tips to counteract the effects

Dr. Momma discusses the processed food epidemic in kids and suggests 6 tips to limit the impact these foods can have on long term health

The processed food epidemic has become a daily task for parents to fight. We are constantly teased with new better, tasting processed foods while simultaneously encouraged to eat organic. Some people are successful at creating and serving extremely healthy, all natural foods to their kids; however, many of us struggle.

Childhood obesity is real and overfeeding plays a huge part. Kids may love the over processed fast foods, but why would a 5-year-old be given a Big Mac from McDonald’s? Excessive feeding teaches kids to continue to over eat food which then can result in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

To be fair, adult obesity has also been skyrocketing. While we obsess about what our kids are doing, what about us? Adults drink sweet coffee drinks (can you say Frappuccino?), eat processed foods, fast foods, sweets and massive servings of food just because the restaurant served it. We all can do better.


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As a pediatric surgeon and mother, I blog about parenting decisions and kids health. I think there is a need to make lifestyle changes in addition to trying to change the diet. I believe eating Paleo, and organic is an admirable goal; consequently, I give high praise to those who can do it. If I had Oprah’s chef and could come home to fantastic healthy meals, I truly believe I could become a thin vegan! But alas, it is me going to the grocery store and cooking, so ….there is that.

I previously confessed to serving my children overprocessed foods. I am not proud of that fact but neither am I ashamed. It is what it is. The point of my post was to admit that my choices were similar to many parents and to acknowledge that it occurs every day in millions of families.  It is important to understand the reason processed foods are harmful and addictive; however, it is equally important to recognize that moderation can reduce the risk of complications.

Eating processed foods served a purpose during a time period in my kids’ lives and did not lead to the scary results that people write about.  Studies report that processed meats (aka bacon and hot dogs) are linked to cancer…but as a scientist, I understand how these studies are done.

The details about the amount of processed meat eaten daily are not discussed. One report came from Sweden; however, Swedish food eaten can be up to 90% canned, frozen and highly processed foods. This is internationally a very high figure.

Eating or drinking anything should be done in moderation and balanced with healthier options. The processed food epidemic grows when these foods are the main part of our diets.

One good piece of news is that a Harvard study showed that all processed foods are not unhealthy! Although I did not know this at the time, I served these healthier options to my girls.

I believe we should not focus on just one part of life. Kids may eat fast foods and processed foods; however, I present ways to keep these foods from causing the harm we all fear.

6 tips to counteract the effects of the processed food epidemic

1. Avoid juice, soda, and sports drinks

A major part of the processed food industry includes adding a high amount of sugar. Drinking sweet drinks also delivers high amounts of sugar to our children.

Recently, the Academy of Pediatrics recommended avoided juices in children and suggested that eating the actual fruit provides great benefits.

2. Drink more water

Water makes up 50-60% of our adult body weight; however, in infants, water accounts for almost 80% of their weight.  I love this post about how water impacts the author. My girls and I develop more headaches when we do not drink enough water. Get more water in your child’s diet!

3. Take vitamins

I recognize that I am not in agreement with pediatric authorities on this topic. The respected Mayo Clinic and Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend vitamins for “normal healthy kids” because they can get the needed vitamins from a well well-balanced diet.

Remember how I confessed that my kids ate processed foods? Well, I know they did not always eat the best foods to get their vitamins; therefore, my children always did (and still do) take vitamins. If you feel your child’s diet contains processed foods which remove nutrients, you might consider a daily vitamin as well.

4. Limit quantities of food eaten

Overeating occurs with foods that taste good; consequently, this has led to the processed food epidemic. Kids do not overeat carrots. Parents need to be mindful of portion control in children.

5. Put down electronics and play

Childhood obesity increases when physical activity levels are low. A Harvard study from 25 years ago showed increased weight gain in kids who sat and watched excess TV. Imagine the impact of excessive sitting with the electronic device revolution!

My previous post addressed kids’ addiction to electronic devices; however, parents may be more likely to reduce screen time by understanding that excess sitting impacts their kids’ health.

6. Play sports

In addition to burning calories and reducing childhood obesity, participation in sports provides many benefits for children. Feeding your child a chicken sandwich on the way home from soccer practice may become balanced by these benefits. Another opportunity to reduce mom guilt!

The bottom line, parents need to continue to seek the healthiest food options possible for their kids. However, recognizing the processed food epidemic is real, I recommend that you use as many of the mentioned tips to reduce the impact on your children’s long-term health!

Dr. Momma discusses the processed food epidemic in kids and suggests 6 tips to limit the impact these foods can have on long term health


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great tips! i def agree with them too!

Nicole Green

Thank you for these tips! I’ve been trying to become more aware of what I put into my body but have been overwhelmed with all the info out there.


Great tips! We eat so many processed foods now, which is terrible.

Natalie Dickinson

It’s so tough isn’t it, especially when we lead such busy lives and processed food is hugely cheaper than healthy clean food. It frustrates me a lot! I’m vegetarian so really do try to eat as much non-processed food as possible and I’ve banned fizzy drinks in our house completely!


Junk food and bing eating is the root cause of so many illness, not just among adults but kid also.

Jessica Barnett

I’ve very lucky I don’t let my little ones eat processed foods.. I may get fries every now and then but not fast food or anything like that. Thanks for tips!


Great points! As a mother I find it very hard to not feed my children at least some processed foods. We have allowed ourselves to become so busy that we can’t find the time to sit down to a healthy home cooked meal!


I’m working on the “limit quantities of food” because my portion size has grown too big, and my lifelong quest to drink more water. I don’t have any kids to processed foods except hummus and baba ghanoush that I’m too lazy to make myself seldom make it into my house

Kelly Harrold

I’m a vegetarian and we’re pretty strict to not eat sugary foods, anything from fast food restaurants, and definitely no meat!


I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can. They tend to break my skin out, so if they do that…….there’s no telling what havoc they’re wreaking on my insides.


This is great! We cut out fast food, except for a few places that are a lot cleaner ( places like chipotle) a while ago. Not only have I seen a change in the way we look but the way we feel. A lot of things went away once we took a lot of the over processed food.


These are great and easy to do tips to get on that road of health success. I’ve already implemented most of these in my life a few years ago and I feel a HUGE difference in quality of life!

Lindsay Fischer

I especially think #4 is important. It’s true that the processed food is SO much easier to overeat, especially for kiddos who don’t know how to manage/properly portion their choices! Great tips!

Krizia Velez

Since a year ago I started to try to watch what I eat. I have always been skinny that’s why I never paid too much attention but I was feeling tired constantly even though I slept too much, but since I changed my diet (stopped drinking soda and taking vitamins) I feel much better and even my skin and hair are reflecting my actions. Thank you for the tips as now I can apply the ones I wasn’t following. I’m so guilty of not putting my electronics down or playing sports!

Tanvi Rastogi

You are right about the processed food harming our health and vitality. You have made some great points. Starting them young with good habits is the best way to go.



Good tips! Processed food really has become an epidemic and a big problem!

Amy Dong

Love that…kids don’t overeat carrots 😉 So true. We’ve oscillated back and forth between completely not buying any processed foods to allowing some back in again. It’s hard as a busy family to completely eliminate processed foods, but these 6 tips are a great starting point. We do avoid juice and stick with water or sparkling water and milk. Can’t say we don’t have home-baked treats once in awhile 😉 As for Sports – yes! We do as many activities as we can all year ’round, myself included. Great post!


These are really good steps that parents can implement easily. My mom tells my sister & I she wishes she knew more about processed foods when we were growing up.


My kids eat relatively healthily for their main meals…they’re pretty good at eating their vegetables and I cook most meals from scratch. I struggle with getting them to eat well at lunch and snack times. Far too many cakes, crisps and processed pork products and not enough salad and virtually no fruit. It’s my aim to change this year!


My son BEGS for orange soda and I try really hard to always say no. They are just not good for him!


Processed food is so bad for you! We should always cook from scratch, it’s not that hard. That’s why people can’t loose weight, cause they eat too much processed food.

    Momma Addict

    Thanks for your comment but this is actually the reason I wrote this post! I am a physician and found it was actually hard for me cook food from scratch daily. I understand the importance of nutrition and healthy bodies better than most people, but life happens. For people like you who can cook and eat clean every day, that is fantastic. But it is extremely difficult for everyone to do this and admitting this is the case, and finding ways to still be healthy is critical. As parents, we all make choices that may be different and avoiding judgment is important. Finding solutions that fit your life is the key. My kids ate processed food. They are healthy, intelligent and not overweight.


I am addicted to processed food and I cannot fight my urges 🙂 It will be tough in the future when I will have kids.

corinne & kirsty

I am not a kid so it might be too late for me ahah; I don’t do half what you recommend. I drink coke zero super often, don’t do sport, don’t take vitamins. I feel like a bad student. Well, time to change that thanks to your tips

Hey Sharonoox

Grear tips! I agree with you to eat and drink in moderation. It’s a challenge to avoid giving processed food to my kid, but I tried whenever possible.

Ali Rost

I’m so glad you mentioned in your post for kids to take vitamins. The quality of our food today is far lower than it was a generation ago. Our soil quality isn’t what it once was, there are GMOs and many other pesticides being used that simply didn’t exist back then.

Yeu Doi

We need healthy foods for our kids and family. I try to buy organic. Thanks for your tips.


It’s hard to avoid processed food but I also drink lots of water! I feel like it seriously regulates the body

Elizabeth O

You are right about processed food that harming our health, Especially our children. I’m vegetarian so really do try to eat as much non-processed food as possible and I really avoid drinking soda and soft drinks with artificial colors. Avoids food that harms our health. Always remember “PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN HOSPITAL BILLS.”


Great tips. We try to be active every day!

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