100 lb. Club - What IS "junk food"?




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kiramira
06-24-2009, 01:44 PM
Hi all!
Me again, thinking (long sigh from some of you, I'm sure! :lol:) --
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???

Kira


JulieJ08
06-24-2009, 01:51 PM
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."

chickiegirl
06-24-2009, 01:52 PM
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.


CollegeGirl
06-24-2009, 01:53 PM
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.

sacha
06-24-2009, 01:57 PM
"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 :carrot: It is no different than a good red wine or a lazy day on the couch - fine in moderation :)

nelie
06-24-2009, 01:59 PM
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.

wendyland
06-24-2009, 02:03 PM
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.

rockinrobin
06-24-2009, 02:16 PM
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.

rochemist
06-24-2009, 02:22 PM
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.

RealCdn
06-24-2009, 02:22 PM
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.

Rosinante
06-24-2009, 02:30 PM
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.

mandalinn82
06-24-2009, 02:52 PM
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.

CLCSC145
06-24-2009, 02:58 PM
For me, junk food is generally nutritionally void and usually quite caloric.


This sums it up for me. Devoid of nutritional merit!

kaplods
06-24-2009, 03:00 PM
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.

TJFitnessDiva
06-24-2009, 03:17 PM
To me it's stuff like Doritos, candy bars, boxed macaroni & cheese, cake, pizza, ice cream...you get the idea.

Hello Nurse
06-24-2009, 03:53 PM
Michael Pollen wrote that anything your great, great, great grandmother would not recognize as food is NOT food. I think he described it as processed food-like substances, LOL! That is as good a definition as any for me, although I am not sure I will ever be 100% rid of it by that definition.

thinpossible
06-24-2009, 04:28 PM
For me junk food is food that calls my name, food I can't keep in the house, food I'm compelled to eat. So for me that means junk food is all kinds of sugary stuff-- pastry, ice cream, candy, sugared cereal, etc. I also consider fast food junk. The only thing I'll buy from a drive thru is a diet soda.

bargoo
06-24-2009, 04:40 PM
If they sell it at MacDonald's it is junk food.

Arctic Mama
06-24-2009, 05:01 PM
I generally consider junk food to be

A) low nutritional density for the calories
B) far removed from a natural food source

If I can make it at home by myself, using basic ingredients, it isn't junk food. It may be higher in calories or healthy only in smaller amounts, like homemade fruit cobbler or fried fish, but it still has simple ingredients that my body recognizes and metabolizes as fuel.

Things like sugar free _____ or preservative-laden foods like most chips and bakery items are junk to me, meaning that my body does not benefit from them compared to some similar, but better, choices.

I am of the opinion that if I eat mostly fruits and vegetables at every meal, and nutritionally dense foods like whole cheese, lentils, any variety of meats and whole grains, that I am doing well. I eat fun food like the occasional hot dog, donut, or pizza, but the bulk of my choices are healthy, thus I am healthy because of it :)

So yeah, other than empty calories of overly processed foods I don't think anything is really junk, just something that is a less healthful choice for my body to run on.

Trazey34
06-24-2009, 05:26 PM
I guess it's different person to person, but my general rule of thumb is "will it ROT eventually" lol, and if the answer is NO then I tend to avoid it lol. Some cheesies/chips/candy/soda/blah blah has a shelf life longer than my life so i say no thanks. That includes those 100 calorie packs etc. i know some people swear by them, but i'd rather have one bite of some delightful homemade dessert than those. To each his own to be sure.

susiemartin
06-24-2009, 05:28 PM
I'm thinking it's just about everything in the center aisles of the grocery store, and in a box, package or can.

Institches21
06-25-2009, 01:55 AM
If you can't pronouce all the ingredients it's junk. Your body cannot process all those chemicals, and I've found the more chemicals, I inhale, the more my body craves.

ICUwishing
06-25-2009, 08:49 AM
Mandalinn's answer resonated with me. I tossed out a thought a while back that one of the reasons you never hear about "eat less, move more" is that it doesn't turn a profit for anybody. As in, the folks that are serious about eating better and getting healthy are almost literally at war with large forces in the economy - the food giants, Big Pharm, the restaurant industry, and even the health care industry. "Food with soul" means that it wasn't churned out by a machine, wasn't stuffed with preservatives so that it could maximize its profit potential for the longest possible time, and wasn't merely a vehicle for leftover industrial waste. I don't want to come across as anti-capitalist, cuz I'm far from it ... but I really want MY new lifestyle to include more joy and more mindfulness when it comes to food ... and have room for the occasional lovingly-crafted cupcake. Thanks, Mandalinn ... that was another big piece of the puzzle for me. And thank you, Kira, for asking another thought-provoking question!

bacilli
06-25-2009, 10:04 AM
For me, junk food is generally nutritionally void and usually quite caloric.

This. Nutritionally void = junk for me. So does anything with a huge amount of sodium.

dragonwoman64
06-25-2009, 11:07 AM
I generally consider junk food to be

A) low nutritional density for the calories
B) far removed from a natural food source

If I can make it at home by myself, using basic ingredients, it isn't junk food. It may be higher in calories or healthy only in smaller amounts, like homemade fruit cobbler or fried fish, but it still has simple ingredients that my body recognizes and metabolizes as fuel.

Things like sugar free _____ or preservative-laden foods like most chips and bakery items are junk to me, meaning that my body does not benefit from them compared to some similar, but better, choices.

I am of the opinion that if I eat mostly fruits and vegetables at every meal, and nutritionally dense foods like whole cheese, lentils, any variety of meats and whole grains, that I am doing well. I eat fun food like the occasional hot dog, donut, or pizza, but the bulk of my choices are healthy, thus I am healthy because of it :)

So yeah, other than empty calories of overly processed foods I don't think anything is really junk, just something that is a less healthful choice for my body to run on.

this sounds like my thinking. I do eat small amounts of white sugar too, in tea (though usually honey).

I think frozen veggies are fine (heard a report on that somewhere, that they do pack nutrition), like fresh better. I don't eat canned veggies, but I do eat canned beans on occasion. I do eat the low cal store bought bread, which I do consider to be processed.

Is processed food junk? no, but I think it's less healthy. if I had bogus billions in the bank, I would eat organic. It is still prohibitively expensive, in my mind, to eat all the time.

I eat ketchup and mustard, mustard more.

CamiToo
06-25-2009, 11:13 AM
My definition of "junk" food is something that has no nutritional value or very little. And I eat it if I really want it. But in moderation.

synger
06-25-2009, 12:18 PM
For me, "junk food" is something that is not part of a normal meal. Cookies, chips, snack foods. Or something that is highly caloric, and usually fried or uber-carby, like french fries and pizza.

I have a separate classification for processed foods. Canned, pre-packaged, or highly refined foods have ingredients I don't want to eat in excess, but I consider them "unhealthy choices" rather than "junk". They can still fit into a meal plan, though other choices would be better.

When I work toward "eating clean", it means I eliminate the "junk", but I also try to avoid refined foods (white flour and sugar) and pre-packaged foods (with all their additives and sodium).

But when I'm on the road, or grabbing a bite in a place where I don't have access to fresh, wholegrain, unprocessed food, then the "unhealthy choices" are better than no food at all.

mandalinn82
06-25-2009, 12:20 PM
ICUWishing - Mindfullness and joy in eating - that basically sums up my viewpoint in a nutshell!

rochemist
06-25-2009, 01:26 PM
I had bogus billions in the bank, I would eat organic.

And you have no idea how processed it is from the "organic acid baths" to get it clean to the components made to make your favorite organic treat. Its all BS, another label to make the American consumer feel good.

dragonwoman64
06-26-2009, 12:59 PM
And you have no idea how processed it is from the "organic acid baths" to get it clean to the components made to make your favorite organic treat. Its all BS, another label to make the American consumer feel good.

that's true too, there is a lot of organic labeling out there that is meaningless to harmful (harmful in that it gives the consumer the impression that it's more healthy when it may have run off chemicals or have gone through processes -- including the use of manure -- which can be dangerous)

LaurieDawn
06-26-2009, 03:45 PM
I am finding this question fascinting as I rediscover my relationship with food. So many of these answers resonate with me - from the "food with soul" to the analysis of the packaging. For me, though, at least right now, junk is whatever pushes me away from my goal. So, the frozen, sweetened strawberries my husband buys would be considered "junk" despite the nutritional value, because it's crazy to think that something so naturally sweet would need sugar. But the small amount of sugar that I put into my oatmeal in the morning to make me enjoy it more is not junk. So, I think I'm echoing Robin's sentiment. If it's useful for me in my journey, it is not junk. If it threatens my ability to achieve my goals, it is junk.

This definition if, of course, extremely personal, but I still stand by my refusal to buy cookies today when my 5-year-old requested them. I explained to her that "we don't need that junk."

cfmama
06-26-2009, 03:49 PM
Junk to me is nutritionally defunct food. Chips, candy, mass produced hamburgers and fries, most "white" foods, juice, pop etc.

Junk to me is not a lean cuisine... though it's not the healthiest choice it's not a BAD choice. Junk is not homebaked goods with healthy organic ingredients... it's mass produced sugar cupcakes.

I stay away from "junk" as much as possible. I'd rather have the REAL version :)