Is There Such a Thing as "Junk Food"?

sugar tip sheet Some nutrition experts do not like the term junk food or labeling foods as good or bad. They say your overall diet is what counts, not the sugary or fatty treat you have now and then. A healthy diet is about finding a balance between high nutrition foods and “junk” foods.

When Does Junk Foods Go “Bad”?

Junk foods tend to be high in fat and sugar and low in fiber and vitamins. As a treat, that may not matter. However, eating a lot of junk food may mean high levels of fat and sugar in your diet. You may also replace more nutritious foods with junk food. This means you take in less fiber and fewer vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, B6, B12, C, folate, calcium, and iron. The body is healthiest when it has access to these nutrients. You’ll feel better and can reduce the risk of health issues like heart disease and stroke.

Obsessions about junk food has been a large part of many, many fad diets. These diets instruct followers to avoid certain foods or food groups at all cost. More often than not, this leads to a backlash and binge of forbidden food. The answer, instead, comes down to moderation.

A Little Goes a Long Way

The debate about the term junk food may lead us to take a closer look at what we eat. Americans who eat super-sized meal deals, sugary cereals, and other high-fat, low-nutrient foods on every day should slowly change the way they eat.

Junk foods can be fun, easy treats, but they should not be eaten every day. Look for healthier foods whenever you can. Fruits can be filling and provide a healthy sugar rush. Veggies can have a satisfying crunch. Be careful of mindless eating with junk food like potato chips. Practiced portion control can help you enjoy treats while keeping your overall diet healthy and ideal for your body. Start with small changes can make it easier to eat a healthier diet.

RESOURCES:

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

Center for Science in the Public Interest
https://cspinet.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
https://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Barter PJ, Rye KA. Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2006;99:565-566. Available at: http://circres.ahajournals.org/content/99/6/565.long.

Countering fast food's health effects. Corporate Accountability International website. Available at: http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/countering-fast-foods-health-effects. Accessed January 29, 2021.

The dangers of eating fast food. Stony Brook University website. Available at: http://www.stonybrook.edu/heartlinks/fastfooddangers.pdf. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Dixon HG, Scully ML, Wakefield MA, White VM, Crawford DA. The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children's food attitudes and preferences. Soc Sci Med. 2007;65(7):1311-1323.

Does TV influence what your child eats? Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/does-tv-influence-what-your-child-eats. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 1/29/2021