How fast food affects children

We discussed young children’s health in the UAE with Mr Sohaib Masood, CEO of Pepe’s Piri Piri, and how the growing availability of fast food options in the region raises significant concerns.

The issue of unhealthy eating among children these days is alarmingly high, partly due to the availability of fast-food delivery. On average, children consume processed fast food at least once a week. Not only does this lead to poor dietary choices, but it also involves improper meal timing and a lack of physical activity, which negatively impacts both their young bodies and minds.

A growing issue

It’s a well-known saying that “you are what you eat” and numerous studies have shown that junk food shapes young brains in ways that impair their ability to think, learn and remember, as well as potentially leading to an increase in aggression and other behavioural issues. Researchers have also discovered that people who regularly consume processed foods tend to underperform compared to those with healthier diets. In addition to issues related to brain development and neurology, other health complications, such as diabetes, childhood obesity and high cholesterol, are common.

The importance of nutrition

As mentioned, nutritious whole foods play a crucial role in developing children’s physical and cognitive abilities, fostering a healthier mindset and cultivating strong willpower. It’s hard to sum up the importance of consistently caring for our bodies throughout our entire lives. If young people consume heavy amounts of junk food, the consequences on their health will inevitably catch up with them as they age. On the other hand, by bringing up little ones on nutrient-dense meals and snacks, you set them up with eating habits that will help them develop properly and preserve their wellbeing all their lives.

Parents play a key role in safeguarding children’s health, by providing them with nutritious, high-quality food options and encouraging activity, exercise and sports to support their strength and overall wellbeing.


One of the biggest challenges facing families in the UAE is ensuring that kids maintain a healthy, well-balanced daily diet, with the right proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein. It’s so important that children’s daily calorie intake aligns with their individual lifestyles, with an emphasis on consuming good calories rather than bad ones.

Convenience food

Unfortunately, the culture of readily available fast food and home delivery services has become a real pitfall to this goal. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, ordering food in or dining out has become a convenient and time-saving option, and that is so understandable as busy parents. There’s nothing inherently wrong with dining out; however, it’s vital to be conscious of the food we select for our children. Ask yourself, is the food freshly cooked? Is it nutritional? Don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant what kind of ingredients they’re using and if their food is fresh or not.

Better choices

The role of fast food is to provide you with quick, processed foods, on-the-go, that fill you up temporarily. Parents can play a key role in preventing kids from developing an addiction to fast food and sugary soda drinks by, instead, opting for whole foods and juices made from real, fresh fruits as a healthier alternative.

A healthy lifestyle

In line with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s initiative to support the UAE’s economy, local businesses, home-grown farms and smaller enterprises, we can already see that the country is actively implementing plans to encourage us to eat fresh, locally sourced produce – which is highly beneficial for our children’s health. One of the most noticeable things you will see in supermarkets is the variety of vegetables that are produced in the UAE, many of which are organic.

National produce

The UAE’s annual vegetable production currently stands at approximately 156,000 tonnes annually, with more than 500 tonnes of field crops and feed, while fruit production is about 200,000 tonnes. Domestic production of vegetables currently meets more than a fifth of the total demand in the country, which is a real achievement.

The right messaging

The best way of promoting a healthy lifestyle in the UAE is firstly from home, then through messaging at school, and finally through advertising and commercial awareness, especially through young children’s cartoons. These are the biggest influencing factors on our children.

Pepe’s Piri Piri

Pepe’s Piri Piri are committed to sourcing local produce and the highest quality ingredients at any given opportunity. Their chicken is fresh sourced from local farms that are naturally fed and hormone free.

At Pepe’s, they focus on offering families and children their flame grilled chicken at an affordable price. The meals come with healthy options, like grilled vegetables, corn on the cob and salads. Their small range of fried products, such as fries, chicken nuggets and some other side items, are responsibly sourced through local suppliers.

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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