What Exactly is Junk Food?
Junk food refers to any type of food that is high in calories but low in nutritional value. Junk food is typically made up of processed ingredients, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and salt while providing the body with minimal fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The History of Junk Food
The history of junk food can be traced back to the early 1900s, when the gradual development of technology and the rise of the industrial age led to the invention of canned and processed foods so people could enjoy food that was convenient and easy to store.
With the rise of industrialization (subsequently followed by a rise in the automotive sector and the suburbanization of cities in America), people had less time to cook and prepare their own meals, so processed foods became increasingly popular.
Between the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, the first “junk drink” and “junk snack” emerged in the market in the form of sugary, processed drinks made with citric acid and carbon dioxide and Cracker Jack, the world’s first mass-produced snack made of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts. These pantry items caused a stir in the community and, in Cracker Jack’s case, climbed its way up to becoming the world’s best-selling snack in 1916.
During World War II, the demand for processed foods shot up because these goods were easy to transport and store for soldiers on the front line.
Back home, resources were scarce and people became increasingly concerned about how they would procure ingredients, find the time to cook a full-fledged meal, and ration groceries for a whole month.
So, fast food restaurants were seen as a welcome relief to the masses because they provided sustenance at a fraction of the cost and time.
The Modernization of Junk Food
Junk food really took off in the mid-20th century, with the rise of fast food chains and convenience stores. These restaurants and stores offered citizens a quick, convenient, and cheap way to consume food.
Coupled with the introduction of new technologies like the microwave and toaster oven, junk food became even more accessible, making it easier than ever to indulge in unhealthy snacks and meals, like pre-packaged frozen dinners or leftovers from a burger or pizza joint.
Junk Food Today
Today, junk food in America is a $331.4 billion-dollar industry – which makes up for a ⅓ of the global fast-food industry – with an incredibly expansive range of brands and fast food chains vying for our attention, and taste buds.
However, more and more people are becoming aware of the health risks associated with junk food. Now, there is a growing trend towards eating healthier and finding alternative options to traditional junk food that give the consumer the flavor they’re looking for without compromising on quality and nutrition.
Why is Junk Food Bad for You?
Junk food is bad for your health for a number of reasons. Listed below are just some aspects to consider when you’re conflicted about eating something healthy or chowing down on some fast food:
High in Calories
Firstly, junk food is often high in calories, which can contribute to sluggishness, weight gain, and obesity.
Full of Unhealthy Fats
Secondly, it is often high in unhealthy fats, which can increase your risk of health problems like heart disease, stroke, and other heart-related issues.
Too Much Added Sugar
Thirdly, it is often high in added sugars, which can increase your risk of developing chronic, genetic illnesses like type 2 diabetes.
High in Salt
Fourthly, it is often high in salt, which can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Avoiding the Consumption of Junk Food
The best way to avoid junk food is to make healthier choices when it comes to food. This means creating a routine of consuming foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals while being low in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is a great way to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing health problems.
Ways to Eat Healthier
One of the best ways to avoid junk food is to plan ahead. Meal-planning may seem like a monotonous activity, but organizing your food schedule will make a big difference in the long run. Make a grocery list of healthy foods you can enjoy throughout the week. This will help you avoid impulse purchases at the grocery store, while also making it easier for you to stick to a healthy eating plan.
Another great way to avoid junk food is to limit your exposure to it. This means avoiding fast food restaurants, vending machines, and other sources of junk food. It also means avoiding the junk food aisle in your local grocery store. By limiting your exposure to junk food, you will be less likely to feel tempted by it or indulge in it.
On the Days Your Craving Kicks In
If you do find yourself craving junk food, there are two ways that can help you deal with the cravings.
Find Healthier Alternatives
Yes, an ice-cream would be the perfect treat after your dinner, but maybe you could settle for a sugar-free sorbet instead. Despite your body’s natural urge to cave in to the craving, it’s always better in the long run to try to find a healthier alternative.
If you’re craving something sweet, try eating some fruit or a greek yogurt with honey instead. If you’re craving something savory, try eating a handful of dry fruits coated in pepper and a sprinkle of cracked sea salt instead.
By finding healthier alternatives, you can still satisfy your cravings without compromising on your health.
Regulate and control your portions
Sometimes it’s impossible to ignore your body’s demands for an unhealthy, but delicious, treat. Denying yourself completely over and over again may work in the short-term, but in the long-run will result in a crash that won’t be easy to control.
So it is important to be realistic and tell yourself that it’s okay to indulge in something delicious, as long as you don’t make it habitual. The chemicals in processed foods make it difficult to abstain from consuming them, and this becomes even worse the more you consume.
So use small bowls and spoons to serve yourself half a serving of the food you’re craving to satisfy the urge while ensuring that you don’t over-indulge.
Junk food is bad for health because not only is it high in calories, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and salt, but it provides your body with absolutely no real nutritional value. The best way to avoid junk food is to make healthier food choices, plan ahead, limit your exposure to it, and find healthier alternatives when you are craving junk food.
By making these changes, you can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing health problems as you get older.