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Old 06-24-2009, 01:44 PM   #1
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Question What IS "junk food"?

Hi all!
Me again, thinking (long sigh from some of you, I'm sure! ) --
we all talk about "taking the junk" out of our diets. And living "junk food free". And how we don't want to put "junk" into our bodies. And it got me to thinking -- I haven't read any thoughts about what "junk food" really is! Is it anything processed? Does this include pre-made dinners? Including Jenny Craig meals? "Lean Cuisine"s? Does it include sugar? White or cane? Or flour? But if you mill it yourself (i.e. it is processed), is it now "junk"? Are canned vegetables "junk" because they are processed? How about frozen??

What is YOUR definition of "junk food" and what have you done about it???


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Old 06-24-2009, 01:51 PM   #2
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People define it differently. *To me*, it's processed convenience foods. My sister's homemade desserts aren't junk (although it's also not my daily food!), but Snicker's bars are.

There's just something about those processed convenience foods (whether meals, desserts, or snacks) that affects me differently. I mean, I find myself thinking, "Hmmm, this doesn't taste very good. Here, let me have the whole bag." What's up with that?

On the other hand, a rich, homemade dessert doesn't do that to me. I may have more than I think I should. But generally, I enjoy it a lot, have a reasonable portion, and move on.

So, although I try to go for wholefoods (another one hard to define!) and home-cooked, my most practical definition is it's the stuff that makes me think, "Hmmm, this doesn't taste very good. Here, let me have the whole bag."
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Old 06-24-2009, 01:52 PM   #3
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My vote goes to highly processed foods full of refined sugars, fat and salt and deep fried items, as a basic guide.

I guess I define "junk food" as chocolate, candy, etc., but truth is, anything that's ben highly processed with a whole bunch of chemicals would seem like it should be included too.

Great question, Kira. I'm curious to see the rest of the responses.

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Old 06-24-2009, 01:53 PM   #4
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I think junk is different for everyone, I personally think junk is anything overly processed or anything fried really. I think that I label some things as junk so that I dont have the want to eat them, for example I dont buy things from grocery store bakeries, and I dont eat things such as premade frozen pizzas.
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Old 06-24-2009, 01:57 PM   #5
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"Junk food" has different meanings for people. I consider things like Lean Cuisines, 100 calorie packs, even Tofutti pops (see my post on the main support page) to be junk food - there are a ton of chemicals in it.

Basically, if it doesn't come from the ground or from an animal, it is junk food to me.

Now, I don't think junk food is poison in reasonable quantities. A slice of pizza every now and then is good for sanity It is no different than a good red wine or a lazy day on the couch - fine in moderation

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Old 06-24-2009, 01:59 PM   #6
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For me, junk food is generally nutritionally void and usually quite caloric.

So think that I think I might eat rarely but I'd consider junky include cupcakes, candy (my husband is on an all natural licorice candy kick right now), dairy free ice cream, fries, tortilla chips, etc.

Now there is a whole realm of things I'd consider junky that I don't include in my diet, even rarely but I think they are too numerous to list. I do give my husband frozen meals to take to work and don't consider them junk food, they are generally pretty nutritious (Amy's usually).

I consider processed food and junk food to be in 2 separate realms although they can be one and the same.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:03 PM   #7
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I don't think that all canned and frozen foods are junk. I supplement fresh veggies with frozen. Mainly because I can sometimes find more frozen organic than fresh organic, so I do both. I use cans once in a while if we need an extra side dish. I'll buy green beans that don't come packed in salty water.

I also don't think that all lean cuisine is bad. It's made by stouffers & they don't use preservatives. I would look for entrees that do not have bleached flour or sugar & I would also check the sodium level. I really like the Kashi frozen entrees. I cook meals 90 percent of the time, but I like to have things on hand so that I don't run out and get fast food. At least I can read the label on the entrees. Who knows what's in your fast food.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:16 PM   #8
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To me junk food is something that has no redeeming value, which usually means it's void of nutrition and high in calories.

For me, at this point, I can still find *some* value in 5 calorie jello, even though HARK - it's got zero nutrition and artificial sweeteners. No nutritional value, mind you, but I do enjoy eating it as a snack. I like the consistency of it and the sweetness and the fact that it's only 5 calories. It keeps me on plan. So therefore it's valuable to me.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:22 PM   #9
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What is junk food?

I am not sure there is such a thing. See here in the US (and Europe) we talk about preservatives and additives and demonize the things the food companies do to keep food safe, because the average consumer takes whatever some so called expert says and then there is spin, etc (every written thing comes with an agenda). The same things with calories, in a 3rd world country calories in themselves are precious. So whether they come from HFCS or an ear of corn, if you have them you are thankful.

Does it ever occur to anyone how rich we are? We are the only country in the world where poor people are obese!

Now do I believe in wasted food? Absolutely. And if I am eating more than my body can use its a waste, and that's my fat. I chose to waste food and that is its own crime and violence in the world.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:22 PM   #10
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As others have said, junk is a different thing to different people. For me, it's generally food with little nutritional value (candy, chips, etc.). Although I personally try and stay away from a lot of processed convenience foods. I bake my own bread, smoke my own meats for lunch, etc. Some of that is cost related, but improved taste is a big plus. Having said that I still use the occasional dollop of ketchup and I pretty much have purchased jalapeno hummus and flatbread most afternoons.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:30 PM   #11
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1. Processed convenience food and anything take-out, like buckets of chicken or burgers.
I don't eat them; not just because I don't trust the contents not to be a bunch of additives but also because they taste sooo good and dmned addictive: once is never enough.
2. Special 'diet' products/meals: I think that they have to replace what they take out with something else probably less than nutritious; anyway, I can usually make a much bigger and tastier meal for the same calories.
3. Meat like ham and bacon. I love them to death but have a sense of it being something very concentrated and unhealthy. Can't find more of a description for it yet, just a feeling.

I include sugar and flour.

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Old 06-24-2009, 02:52 PM   #12
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We had a great thread on this a few months back, and it was really interesting to see all of the definitions!

My personal definition is food without, for lack of a better word, soul.

So, let's take for example, a cupcake. There are junk food cupcakes (mass produced, pre-packaged, grocery store, hostess, etc) galore. But then, there are cupcakes lovingly crafted, at home or at a small bakery, by hand, with the best ingredients. They have sugar and butter and flour but they're satisfying in a way the ones I call "junk" aren't, and they're a once-in-a-while treat. I don't consider them junk.

In this same way, a fast food salad would be considered "junk", but a well crafted, well-cooked cheeseburger and a glass of wine would not.

I pretty much never indulge in what I consider "junk", even if I do indulge in things that are higher-calorie and less nutritionally redeeming.
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by nelie View Post
For me, junk food is generally nutritionally void and usually quite caloric.
This sums it up for me. Devoid of nutritional merit!
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Old 06-24-2009, 03:00 PM   #14
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My husband and I were talking about this, not 20 minutes ago in the grocery store. I was transfixed by the baby food aisle, and hubby asked what I was doing (since we don't have a baby).

I was stunned at the new baby foods. They're not primarily plain cereals or pureed fruits, vegetables, and/or meats, anymore. There are tons of cookie and "tv dinner" style options. Not complete "junk," but not nearly as healthy as simpler traditional offerings (at least not if you have an overweight toddler). The funny thing was how many were packaged to "look very healthy," and it made me realize that we associate "healthy" with certain colors (primarily certain greens and bright white). So many of the packages (of several different brands) were decorated in shades and combinations of bright white and leafy green - you know "healthy colors."

I think it's a bit unfortunatel that someone who wouldn't buy Spaghettios for their toddlers because "it's junk," might consider spending three times as much for shelf-stable toddler pasta dinners (basically canning in plastic), because the package makes them look "healthy," yet the nutrition is nearly identical to the Spaghettios.

I'm not saying that either canned pasta is the worst thing you can feed a child, especially children without weight issues, but the idea that the same food is somehow healthier if canned in plastic or packaged in shades of green just reminds me how powerful marketing is.

"Junk food," is a bit like pornography, in that most people's definition goes something like "I don't know how to definie it, but I know it when I see it." Is it art or porn, nutritious or junk - I'll know it when I see it. Hmmm, sometimes maybe not.

I think it's because like many things, we're talking about a spectrum issue, shades of gray. There is no precise definition for junk food. It's a nebulous concept - and it has to be, because foods are not healthy in a vacuum. What foods are healthy or not, for an individual depends on a lot of factors - the person's age, weight, activity level, overall health condition, any inherited or aquired health conditions.... If a person is starving to death, a Big Mac could be healthier than an apple. If a person is diabetic, overdoing fruit can be just as unwise as overdoing unnatural carbohydrate sources.
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Old 06-24-2009, 03:17 PM   #15
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To me it's stuff like Doritos, candy bars, boxed macaroni & cheese, cake, pizza, ice cream...you get the idea.

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