Most people know that high-sugar foods like chocolate or pastries are junk, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that many foods fit into this category. The director of the Centers for Science in the Public Interest coined the term “junk food” in the 1970s to describe items that have little nutritional value or a negative effect on overall health. Identifying foods that are not beneficial to the body and replacing them with better choices is the key to promoting and improving overall health.
Why Is Junk Food Bad?
Today’s market is full of processed meals and products with high levels of chemicals, or preservatives, that extend shelf life. Some additives in junk food may be carcinogenic or have catastrophic side effects such as organ damage and infertility. What they don’t have is essential vitamins and minerals that provide energy, help build muscle and add structural components necessary to regenerate cells. A poor diet does not just affect weight; it can be a factor in depression and chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
Promoting Healthy Eating
Major corporations have joined the cause to help promote healthy eating, including Disney, which recently announced an advertising ban on junk foods. Effective June 5, 2012, Disney introduced new guidelines for appropriate advertising on any of the company programs marketed to children and families. Food products seeking advertising with Disney must meet certain nutritional and caloric standards to run ads on Disney’s broadcast channels. But why is it that Disney is placing itself at the forefront of this health issue? Healthy eating goes far beyond Disney and advertising. It’s an issue ingrained into our society.
What is the Point of Avoiding Foods Kids Enjoy?
Healthy eating is a learned trait. Parents must educate their children about the right and the wrong way to eat, but not because Disney or Michelle Obama promote it. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States. Extra pounds for kids often lead to a lifetime of weight and health problems. Overweight children can grow up to become adults that have high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. The Mayo Clinic warns that childhood obesity can cause low self-esteem and depression that lasts a lifetime, as well. So while Mickey Mouse and company think they are helping to solve the issue, they aren’t getting these unhealthy foods off the grocery shelves. Despite Disney’s policy, unhealthy eating is a cycle that doctors and researchers see continuing despite changes in advertising.
Isn’t Healthy Eating Just a Trend?
With help from corporations and the medical community, healthy eating will not be just another trend. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than one-third of American adults are obese. The key to fighting that statistic is education. Parents need to learn about eating right, so they can teach children how to stay healthy. A parent snacking on potato chips in front of the television will raise kids that do the same thing. It is a vicious cycle. Disney may be eliminating ads, but they aren’t going far enough. They aren’t educating viewers.
Why Do People Eat Junk Food?
The reasons behind poor eating habits vary. Some common excuses include:
Cost – Junk foods tend to be cheaper than produce and organic products. This is true in some cases but not in all. Smart shopping can help fix the money problems that may be part of why some families eat poorly. Scanning the paper and Internet for coupons, for example, can help offset the cost of eating fresh foods.
Cravings – The answer to the junk food problem may not be total avoidance, but rather moderation or substitution. Cravings happen because the body lacks a nutritional element like salt or sugar. A craving may indicate what a diet is missing. For instance, craving sweets may mean that there is not enough fruit in a child’s meal plan.
Habitual Eating – Habitual eating is a problem for many people. This habit comes from childhood. When kids are young, it is vital to teach the art of portioning and eating only to satisfy hunger. Parents should not give in to the desire for a candy bar as an award or a way to fight boredom. This creates a conditioned response in children. “If I’m good, Mommy will give me candy, so if I get candy I must be good.”
Comfort Food – Many individuals turn to food as a way to feel better. The reality is overeating is a contributing factor to depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that foods like desserts, fried dishes, refined cereal and high-fat dairy products contribute to ongoing depression. Changing over to fruits, vegetables and fish helps fight the blues and create a healthy diet.
What parents feed their children and their attitude towards food can lead to a lifetime a healthy eating. Kids develop habits watching what goes on around them and by following what adults tell them. Childhood obesity can cause type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. An absence of junk food on kids’ television may not stop the unhealthy eating habits they see happening around them. Adults cutting out junk food may be the only way to break this cycle.