July 21st is National Junk Food Day, a day to step away from our diets and healthy eating habits for just one day, in order to enjoy the foods we’ve been craving. The term “junk food” entered our lexicon in 1972. Coined by Michael F. Jacbson of the Center of Science in the Public Interest, it described foods whose “presence in the human body beyond a critical level is harmful”, or foods that “are perceived to have little or not nutritional value.” Typical junk foods include ready-to-eat meals, many fast food items, candy, alcohol, and carbonated beverages. But even foods with some nutritional value can be classified as junk food if they contain harmful levels of any number of ingredients, including salt, fat, and preservatives. Studies suggest that eating junk food can actually alter brain activity in a manner similar to other addictive substances, and that bad eating habits can even be passed from mother to child while a baby is in utero! With obesity and diabetes taking a firm hold over America’s populace, it has become increasingly clear that our nation needs to assess it’s addiction to junk food.
Like so many other kids my age, I grew up eating junk food, but always in moderation. This was before America had becomes so large, when an overweight child hadn’t yet become part of the normal landscape. In spite of our fig newtons, twinkles, potato chips, and soda, most of my family was always on the thin-to-average side — again, I attribute this to moderation. As I grew older I cut a lot of those junk food “snacks” out of my diet, but ended up replacing them with fast food and microwave-ready meals, which are often alarmingly high in sodium. And this is still a struggle for me every day: while I’m very good about paying attention to calorie consumption, I pretty much ignore the rest of the ingredients of whatever I’m eating. And Chris is the same way. One thing I’ll say for us though, is that we do know how to say no to ourselves. We rarely eat ice cream or drink milkshakes, if we want to eat fast food we choose the healthiest option available (holla’ Chick-fil-A), and we don’t do a lot of snacking at home. In fact, we usually plan out what we’re going to eat ahead of time, which includes getting our breakfast and lunch ready a night ahead of time. That way our temptations don’t lead us toward any unexpected junk food adventures.