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Junk-Food Facts

Are you a junk-food junkie? Here's what you need to know.

Junk Food and TV

As we all know, many of the food commercials aimed at children are for foods high in fat, sugar, and/or salt, and low in nutritional value. And some research suggests that watching ads for processed foods encourages children to eat more.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom exposed 60 children, ages 9 to 11, to both food advertisements and toy advertisements, followed by a cartoon and free food.

The children ate more after the food advertisements than after the commercials for toys, the study found. The obese children in the study increased their consumption of food the most (134%) after watching the food ads, compared to overweight children (101%) and normal-weight children (84%).

Taking the 'Junk' out of Junk Food

Now that you've got the facts about junk food, how can you try to eat more healthfully in our junk- food-filled world? Here are three tips:

  • Choose fast-food restaurants that offer healthier choices. And no matter where you are, opt for food and beverages that are made up mostly of ingredients that offer nutrients along with calories. Enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice or a whole-wheat bagel instead of soda or donuts. Buy a bean burrito, pizza topped with vegetables, or a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole-grain bun instead of tortilla chips with processed cheese sauce; frozen pizza rolls; or fried chicken pieces and French fries. Avoid sweetened beverages.
  • Look for products low in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, milled grains, and partially hydrogenated oils. Choose a 100% whole-wheat cracker made with canola oil, for example, or snack on a cheese and fruit plate instead of a bowl of cheese puffs.
  • Limit TV viewing, for yourself and your kids. Certain TV shows seem to attract more junk food commercials more than others, so parents might want to discourage kids from watching these shows. Or try TIVO (where you can fast-forward through commercials) or watch DVDs.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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