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
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
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
- 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.