“We may believe that we make informed decisions about food choice, but we cannot do so if we are oblivious to the ways food companies influence our choices.” — Marion Nestle, “Food Politics.”
It’s July 21, 8:45 a.m. and on the TV news I am informed that today is National Junk Food Day. No, it’s not a day to decide to eliminate such foods from our diets. It’s dedicated to “eating all the junk food you wish without feeling guilty.” I wonder who could have thought of that! I must Google it right now!
There it is! It’s listed under “Fun, unusual, forgotten designations on our calendar.” Junk Food Day is described as “A celebration of foods that everyone loves to snack on … about eating foods that we generally try to avoid to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
We are told what most of us already know, that “junk foods are the foods that are high in fats, sugars, salt and calories and contain very little nutritional value. Today you get to celebrate by eating those foods without counting calories and thinking about nutrition … and tomorrow you may resume your diet.”
Google informs me that “Within our resources, we were unable to find the creator and origin of National Junk Food Day, an ‘unofficial’ holiday.” Hmmm!
I love the response from The Huffington Post. “What’s next? Drink more soda day? Enjoy a cigarette day? Drive without seat belts day?”
What’s really needed is an ongoing National Avoid Junk Food Campaign and maybe a special day to take stock of our diets and renew our commitment to avoid as many products as possible that qualify. The problem is that this isn’t an issue to be taken lightly. The way a great many people eat is undermining not only their health, but the health and well-being of our entire nation.
It’s a competition between the food industry and any consumer who wishes to eat healthfully. And it’s obvious that the industry has the upper hand. Corporate interests know that there are many more people out there who go for instant gratification instead of taking the time to guide their diets in the direction of better health. Many could care less about learning about how what they eat affects their future. They want it now and to heck with tomorrow! And the FDA? Don’t expect miracles!
When it comes to junk food, it seems that there’s not all that much in the supermarket any more that doesn’t fit the category. Of course, it depends upon how you define it. But basically, there is a plethora of products that provide little nutrition per calorie — those that are made with white flour, much sugar, unhealthy fat and a lot of sodium. And we must not forget those that we should avoid because they have been inundated with pesticides and fungicides or formulated with chemicals (such as colors) to make them more appealing so we’ll eat more of them. As Michael Pollen wrote in “Food Rules”: “There’s a lot of money in the Western diet. The more you process any food, the more profitable it becomes.”
It’s not easy to avoid such products. Besides, how many parents of young children know what foods to avoid, much less which to emphasize? How many have the time or inclination to devote to learning about such things and providing foods accordingly? And if we eat out, we have no idea where the ingredients of the selections on the menu have originated or how they’ve been prepared.
It’s very dismaying to see how the poor diets of so many Americans (aided and abetted by the industry without a conscience) have caused unprecedented obesity and related illnesses. To allow corporate interests to determine what foods are available for purchase (no matter how manipulated and processed), as far as I’m concerned, is abominable.
“National Junk Food Day”! Hard to believe! I can’t help but think that it’s a convoluted ploy by industry to bring attention to and sell more of their profit-making contrived products. Tell me if I’m wrong.
Thinking of people like herself in the business of nutrition education, Ms. Nestle wrote: “If we are going to make real progress in helping the public improve diet and health, we are going to have to face the political issues head on, say what we really mean, and be willing to take the consequences of substantial opposition from many sectors of society. At stake are credibility, integrity and ethics.” Marion, your work is cut out for you and your cohorts.
And I beg you, Junk Food Day or not, please don’t eat deep-fried Twinkies.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.