I asked this question to a few people around and the most interesting answer that I got, was from my mom. To quote her, ‘I think in your dietician’s terminology, anything that tastes good would be junk food.’ Obviously, I had realized that she was the last person I should have asked this question – but well, she cannot be blamed. This is the general perception amongst people who have at some point of time wanted to lose weight or mend their eating habits. My apologies to fellow dieticians and nutritionists.
Before we understand what junk food is, let us try and see what are the basic nutrients that one gets from food. Being exposed to nutrition information almost every minute, all of us know of the basic carbohydrates, proteins and the BAD GUY- FAT. We also know, that food gives us vitamins and minerals, that help us fight diseases, help our body maintain its everyday functions like regulating blood pressure, maintaining the skin tone or regenerating tissue. You also might have heard of trans fats, cholesterol, fibre, calcium, iron etc. terms on food items or in food marketing.
Now junk food is food which tastes yummy but is very high in calories and has little nutritional value. When I say calories, I do not mean just FAT. Calories also come from carbohydrates. So that can of cola, although has very little fat, gets considered as Junk food/drink because it has high amounts of simple sugars, fat, trans fats and no other nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals or fibre. So, while the my mom’s definition of junk food is not true, sadly the converse is something which we cannot deny- JUNK FOOD IS VERY TASTY. And that is the beginning of the problem, especially in young children who are bombarded with junk food ads.
Junk food ->Great taste -> more people wanting to eat it -> more quantities of it consumed -> large amounts of empty calories and fat in the body -> Overweight or obese people.
To give you some everyday examples of Junk Food- sugar or chocolate coated breakfast cereals, batata wada, french fries, fried potato, cheese pizza, indian mithai (the fat and sugar content is way larger than the milk protein content), chocolate, chips, aerated soft drinks, fast food chain burgers, fried chicken, fried meat, fritters/bhajiya, processed foods like heat and eat parathas, chicken nuggets, sausages, salami, white breads … the list is endless.
Hope that would have helped you understand junk food better. Do write in with your comments, feedback and questions.
Till then, Happy Healthy Eating!
Update: Misal Pav, Dal Chawal, Rice, Stir Fried Vegetables, Grilled Vegetable Sandwich etc. are NOT junk food.