Junk food is a slang word for foods with limited nutritional value. Every person has their own list of foods that they call junk foods. I would include foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat or calories and low nutrient content.
Salted snack foods, candy, gum, most sweet desserts, fried fast food and carbonated beverages are some of the major junk foods. Generally, they offer little in terms of protein, vitamins or minerals and lots of calories from sugar or fat. The term “empty calories” reflects the lack of nutrients.
Rather than taking a radical approach and banning all but the simplest foods, judge each food based on the list of ingredients and Nutrition Facts label found on packages. When reading the list of ingredients, look for sugar, fat or salt as one of the first three ingredients. If any of these are listed that high in the ingredients, you can probably consider that food to be too high in sugar, fat or salt.
A look at the nutritional information on the label will list the number of calories per serving, grams of fat, sodium, cholesterol, fiber and sugar content. This nutritional information will make you more knowledgeable in selecting foods to reduce your nutritional health risk.
Calorie content of 300 calories per serving or less is considered to be all right, except whole meals unless you are following a weight loss diet. Be cautious though as to how large a serving size is. If 4 ounces of yogurt is a serving size and you eat an eight-ounce container, you have doubled the calorie content. Sometimes, the package serving size is not how little you serve yourself!
Now, look at the number of grams of fat. For every five grams of fat in a serving of a food, you are eating the equivalent of one teaspoon of fat. So, if one serving of a food has 23 grams of fat in it, that serving has the equivalent of four and one-half teaspoons of fat. You should limit the fat content in foods you eat daily to 30% of your total calories. Don’t try to lower your fat content to below 25%, since fat does play a vital role in carrying fat-soluble vitamins and keeping you satisfied between meals.
Sodium content per serving should be 2300 milligrams or less per day. Some foods, like ham and other cured meats, do have very high sodium content per serving. Limit these foods rather than eliminate them.
Cholesterol content should be 300 milligrams or less per day. It is easy to remember that 300 is the same as the number of calories per serving.
Fiber content will be listed in grams of dietary fiber. This amount will vary from product to product, but don’t necessarily shop for only the highest numbers you can find. Any amount of dietary fiber above two grams per serving is good. Foods with five grams of fiber or more are considered high fiber foods.
Sugar content is usually listed on cold cereal packages. A rule of thumb to follow is four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. Limit sugars amounts in cereals to four grams, but if the cereal has fruit in it, relax the sugar content to eight grams per serving. Fruits usually contain about 60% fructose and 40% sucrose. If you were to eliminate all sugar, you would be eliminating fruits, which are a valuable source of nutrients and soluble fiber.
If you want to cut down on junk food, cut down your intake of salt, sugar, fat and refined foods. Choose your calories by the nutrient company they keep.