Junk food - noun
Pre-prepared or packaged food that has low nutritional value. (1)
As junk food is defined, only packaged/pre-prepared with low nutritional value can be classified as junk food but perhaps we should step away from the dictionary definition and broaden our definition of junk food.
When discussing junk food, I like to see just two main categories; healthy food and junk food. Broadly speaking, healthy food being all things that are obviously real food, and closest to their natural form in nature. For example, fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains etc. Junk food is pretty much everything else. From highly processed burgers to sugar-ladened chocolate bars, it's all 'junk' really.
Healthy junk food
Sounds a bit off, right?
Recently, there's been a rapidly growing market for what I like to call healthy junk food. If you're health conscious, you'll know and probably eat some of this 'new' junk food. It's the food that's disguised behind labels like 'vegan', 'gluten free', 'paleo' and 'protein source'. We all know these types of snacks. Tempting us with their labels and natural looking colour schemes.
Rather than trusting in the marketing blindly, perhaps we should investigate in a little more detail.
The top 5 'fake' healthy foods you might come across in the supermarket:
Breakfast cereals have always been in the forefront of the 'pretending to be healthy' trend. Most breakfast cereals you'll find in the supermarket come in neat packages with pictures of fresh fruit on the side, with labels like 'source of fibre' and with a blurb on the back of the packet giving advice about the importance of having a healthy breakfast. These kinds of techniques are supposed to all add up in our mind to equal 'this cereal is healthy'. A report in 2014 found that the average cold breakfast cereal contained nearly 25% sugar by weight (2). This is a silly amount of sugar to be consuming for breakfast, especially when it's marketed as good for you.
A good breaky option is a good bowl of oats and some fruit.
Main issue: High sugar, low fibre.
When I say health bars, I'm talking about the expensive little bars that are full of fruits nuts and sugar. While these don't exactly fit in the definition of junk food as most of them don't have low nutritional values (mainly down to the nuts and fruit), I've included them on the list as a lot of them contain way to much sugar (or sugar alternatives). There are some exceptions to this stupidly high sugar trend, but to make sure, just take a look at the ingredients before you eat too many. Also look at the fiber content, as a lot of these bars are fairly low in fibre which will leave you just craving more and not feeling satisfied at all.
Instead, consider eating some nuts or crunching on an apple.
Main issue: High sugar, low fibre.
Granola is always marketed as a healthy addition to any breakfast. When we think of granola, we think healthy, rugged and the outdoors. In fact, when you look at what's in the packet, you'll find that there's sugar and not much else. Which is a huge shame. Very similar to the cereal, there's usually very little fibre and lots of sugar. You want the opposite to start your day.
Try to cut out the granola or simply make your own and control the ingredients :)
Main issue: Low fibre, high sugar.
Low fat foods are the foods that have been processed to be reduced in fat, a lot of dairy products are advertised as low fat. These products are still riding the wave of the low-fat eating trends. Fuelled by clever marketing, they're still seen to be healthier than their full fat alternatives. The main issue with these foods is that when the fat is taken out of the particular food, that food then loses it's flavour and doesn't taste half as good. To compensate for this loss of flavour, food manufacturers tend to throw in lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners. While too much of certain fats are bad for you, the added sweeteners are much worse.
Main issue: Sugar
This is just a brief coverage of these types of foods, it wasn't very in depth and my claims aren't very supported by references. So I'll be covering all of the issues raised here and I'll go into much more depth in other posts to come!
The main purpose of this post was to give you a little information so that you can spot these sneaky little devils in the future. I'm sure you can see the trend between the high sugar and low fibre in most of these foods and so it's definitely something to look out for in other foods. And remember, if the sugar content in a sweet something is very low make sure to check if it contains any nasty sweeteners!
I've analysed these foods mainly through their nutritional values and ingredients that you can read on the packet. However, keep in mind that they're all processed and probably not made of the best ingredients, I'm sure some of which will be genetically modified.
I hope you all have a good day!
(1) Junk food definition - https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/junk_food
(2) Report on sugar in cereals - http://www.ewg.org/research/childrens-cereals-sugar-pound/cereals-contain-far-more-sugar-experts-recommend