Rant continued: What is junk food?

I wanted to follow up on my blog post about dieting because I realised I referred to ‘junk food’ a lot. Junk food can mean a lot of different things depending on your viewpoint; if you follow a Paleo diet, then most bread and pasta could be junk food. Whereas if you are following a vegetarian diet, then a hamburger could be junk food. So I’m going to address what exactly junk food is, and give you – if it’s even possible – a comprehensive list.

Refined sugar and flour

I think this covers most of what I consider junk food; cake, biscuits, white bread and pasta, pastries, sweets, chocolate (except maybe very, very dark chocolate) puddings, dumplings, all those party nibble type foods that are so tempting. You’re probably aware that refined sugar and flour are not good for you, but why? Because they are ingredients that have been processed so that they have no nutritional value. Also, they are made up of very simple carbohydrates; our bodies process these too quickly, which is why you get the energy/slump cycle if you eat a lot of refined sugar and flour. I would recommend substituting all white flour foods with wholegrain – if you can’t find a wholegrain version, don’t eat it. Sugar is slightly more difficult; if you have a really sweet tooth, you may benefit from cutting out all sweet/sweetened food for a while, because you will give your tastebuds time to reset and not only will you crave sweet food less, but you will find less sweet food more satisfying. The most nutritional sweetener available is date sugar or raw dates – raw dates make a great snack (watch your portion size though). Please avoid all artificial sweeteners; they are almost all really toxic and they stop you from adjusting to a realistic ‘sweetness expectation’ from your food.

Fried food, or food unnaturally high in saturated fat

I don’t care if you throw goji berries in a deep fat fryer; they will still come out as junk. Anything that has been deep or shallow fried is not going to be healthy; chips, anything battered (even vegetables!!) tempura, anything. Eating high levels of saturated fat, or animal fat (from meat or dairy) is very bad for you – for all sorts of reason, but the main two reasons being CVD and cancer. If you can change the way you cook your food, moving from fried food to baked/boiled/poached/raw, then you have made a huge step towards a healthier diet.

Anything with a huge list of unknown ingredients

There are two types of food you can buy from a supermarket; ingredients, and products made up of lots of ingredients. If you buy a potato, it contains potato. If you buy, potato based reformed flash frozen preserved smiley faces, flip the packet over and you have a huge long list of ingredients – I don’t know what they are, you don’t know what they are, but a lot of the colours and preservatives added to food are at the very least not good for you, and potentially very bad for you. Always check the label on the food you’re buying, and as much a possible buy foods that are ingredients, not foods that have ingredients.

And avoiding food with ingredients doesn’t necessarily have to mean more or difficult cooking; having baked potatoes with cheese / beans in tomato passata / dry fried mushrooms and onions / or a small amount of chicken or bacon if that floats your boat, and maybe some peas or salad is a good example i think. Using all one ingredient foods, you get a tasty dinner, and all you have to do is fork the potatoes and stick them in the oven. You can even microwave them if you want to be really quick!

I hope this helps to explain a little more clearly what I was talking about before! If you have any good quick dinner recipes like the one above, please share in the comments below – it’s always good to try new recipes I think 🙂

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