So what is considered junk food? I like to think of junk food as food that isn't very (or at all) nutrient dense for how many calories it packs in.
I ran across this Huffington Post article, written by a nutritionist, not a registered dietitian (like Melanie & Rebecca are). She provided some great tips though! (Check out what a registered dietitian is and why their opinion rules). Here are some guidelines I've adapted to really enjoy junk food on National Junk Food Day with no regrets:
1. Choose Wisely
Don't waste your taste buds and calories on crap you don't like. If you're not a fan of Oreos, don't eat them (save them for me!).
2. Savor Your Treat Mindfully
Have you ever demolished a whole family sized bag of chips while watching the Real Housewives, the World Cup, or something, and not felt satisfied (referring to the feeling of "having enough" accompanied with some sense of fullness) afterwards? If we pay more attention to a TV show (or anything else) than to what we're eating, we easily eat way more than normal and don't even realize how much we ate to begin with! When you eat mindlessly, you forgo the wonderful sensations and flavors of eating, and end up with what? A huge load of calories and possibly an upset belly. Pay attention to what you're eating-especially when you're indulging in a high calorie/fat treat. Need to compare this to something more familiar? Think back to when you were in school. Have you paid more attention to your text messages/personal conversations/Facebook/daydreaming than to your teacher? Did you get anything out of a class when your attention was elsewhere? Same thing with eating, if you're not paying attention your brain won't get anything out of it & you won't be satisfied with what you ate.
3. Know When to Stop
Portion control is key. Portion control sounds like a negative "diet" phrase, but look at it as a way to enjoy what you like and avoid guilt at the same time! Pre-portion out your "junk" to keep you on track and to help you feel like you're not depriving yourself. How? Well, based on extensive research done at Cornell (check out Mindless Eating), Dr. Brian Wansink and his team recommend eating off of smaller plates & pre-portioning out food (and putting the rest away). Somehow just feeling like we're getting enough (by filling up a plate, and not having an easy option of more in view) plays a huge part into how satisfied we are with what we eat. (this whole mindless eating concept is far more deep and fascinating & true-we'll have to get into it more in a later post! so stay tuned).
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics puts it, the key is to moderate instead of eliminate.
4. Look at the Whole Picture
Do you eat lots of "junk" everyday? Or do you typically eat a well balanced diet within your calorie needs and enjoy occasional treats? Look for what you typically do instead of the exceptions when it comes to how well you eat. Think of your calorie needs/allotment as a bank account. If you have the money to occasionally buy a new Louis Vuitton purse & really want one, do it! But don't buy 10. If you really want gelato at your favorite gelateria, go for it. Just maybe share with someone, or get the smallest (or kids size). Also it's way easier to stick to your health goals by not visiting that delicious gelateria daily. Besides, you'll save your bank account (and calorie bank) for just doing this occasionally. Plus, treating a fancy purse as a splurge (not purchased often) and doing the same with high fat/calorie foods makes it more meaningful, well earned, and special. Who doesn't want that?
5. No Go Out and Eat Slowly!
It takes time for our brain to register when we've had enough. If you eat slowly (like at least 20-30 minutes to eat a meal) you're less likely to overeat and to feel overly full and sick after a meal.
Enjoy your Oreos, cake, potato chips, or whatever you consider as "junk" just be smart and don't regret it!
1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss. 2012. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6847.
2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Ways to Shave Calories. 2012. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6849. Accessed 7/19/2014.