How bad is junk food? Terrible.
Your biggest challenge in eating a healthier diet will not be learning about nutrition, finding places to shop or finding affordable, tasty foods that are also healthy.
No, your biggest challenge will be in breaking your addiction to junk foods. If you have already broken this addiction, or have managed to never have acquired it, congratulations! You are more than halfway home.
Junk foods are so abundant in modern societies that they are almost invisible. No matter how much people hear about the need to eat healthier, and to consume fewer calories, it seems that the junk food industry keeps growing.
What Is ‘Junk Food?’
Before we go any futher, it might be a good idea to define this term. In general, junk foods are those foods that are mostly empty calories. They contain ingredients that are detrimental to your health, especially in large quantities and eaten regularly.
Most people today actually know that many of the ingredients in these junk foods, such as sugar, white flour, high salt content and hydrogenated fats (or trans fats) are unhealthy. Yet, many of the same people continue to consume these just because they are so difficult to avoid if you don’t make some effort to avoid them.
How Bad is Junk Food?
It would seem that it should not be all that hard to avoid such a short list of ingredients. The problem is, they are almost everywhere you turn in a supermarket, not to mention any fast food restaurant. Still more bad news –they are just as likely to be present in foods prepared in fancier or ‘gourmet’ delis and restaurants.
The problem with junk food is that there really isn’t much of a middle ground, which goes against my natural tendency to want to be moderate and not come across like some kind of fanatic
In other words, I don’t want to tell you that you should never (okay, hardly ever) eat at burger joints, fast food chicken places, submarine places and so forth. I
don’t want to say this, because I know how hard it is for many people to digest this kind of information (excuse the bad pun), but I really have to say it.
This stuff is not good for you. Most of it contains large quantities of the very worse stuff you can consume.
Salt Is One Enemy To Your Health
These foods usually have lots of salt (which helps make them addictive, so you eat too much of them). Unfortunately, the food you get at many ‘classier’ restaurants isn’t much better in many cases.
At least here, however, you have choices. At a diner even, and most restaurants, you have a fairly wide selection, some of it at least marginally acceptable. The outright fast food places, though, are almost 100% junk.
After fast food places, the main junk food culprits are snack foods and desserts.
With snacks like chips, pretzels and popcorn, the main problem is salt. You can sometimes find salt free chips in the natural foods store, but for many this takes away the appeal.
There is also the question of how the chips are cooked. If you have to buy these things, stick to the all natural kind and look for at least low sodium content.
Sugar almost deserves its own chapter. The word ‘desserts’ is misleading, because it suggests a treat you eat after dinner. The problem today is that many people munch on sweets all day long, from their breakfast cereal till midnight snack time. Even natural foods and organic foods often contain lots of sugar. More on this later.
So when it comes to junk food, I have to be a bit of a tyrant and say you should try to quit it. The main trick is to find replacements. If you need to snack, I will make suggestions later on that will be good substitutes to cookies, chips or candy. It may not be easy, and there will be an adjustment period, but it’s worth it. You simply can’t eat a healthy diet if junk foods are any substantial part of your regime!
‘Health Food’ Cautions
I cannot leave the Junk Food idea without issuing a warning about many foods labeled ‘healthy.’ Many are simply slightly less junky junk foods, full of sugar and salt. These are the two main culprits in this category of ‘junk health foods.’ For one thing, a product can be ‘all natural’ and even ‘organic’ and still contain high amounts of either.
Is There Any Healthy Sugar?
Health food stores, or the natural foods sections of supermarkets contain many highly sweetened items breakfast cereals, cookies, candy and other desserts even fruit juices. These are usually made with ‘good’ or all natural sugars.
Even though these are indeed preferable to the pure garbage sweeteners such as corn syrup and plain old white sugar, eating high quantities of ANY sugar, as modern diets easily tempt us into doing, is simply not good for you. One of the ways that many health food devotees get tricked is by juices. While fruit is great, fruit juices even those that are pure fruit juice with no added sweeteners- are highly concentrated forms of fruit.
You see, when you are eating fruit, an apple, a banana, an orange, you are getting sugar and fiber and other nutrients as well but one thing that is very under reported is the fact that fruit and vegetables have a very high amount of water. That means that when you are eating a pound of blueberries, which don’t seem very watery but in fact blueberries are 85% water.
Fruit juices such as apple (which is also the main ingredient in many juice mixes) are certainly better for you than soda or those powdered sugar drinks, but they still are very sweet foods. In general, a good rule to follow is to think about junk food just as I started this article. How bad is junk food? Terrible.