Junk Food Rules
This is not a campaign to encourage you to stop eating junk food. A little bad is good—the keyword being little. Here are some other tips to help you indulge without doing in your diet.
- Choose Wisely. Chocolate, candy, and other sweets contain empty calories that can translate into high amounts of fat, sugar, salt and not many vitamins or minerals. Instead of splurging on everything, opt for one of your favorites. You don’t have to eat everything you love in one day.
- Reasonable Portions. Be mindful of the serving size of your treat. Many junk foods come in mini, prepackaged portions. Aim for no more than 200 calories.
- A Side of Healthy. Small amounts of high fat or high sugar food may leave you craving more. Supplement junk fare with a piece of fruit or a serving of veggies. These fiber-filled foods will help keep you satisfied.
- Avoid Trans Fat. Stay away from items that contain heart-clogging trans fat. Do not rely on the nutrition labels alone — the Food and Drug Administration only requires manufacturers to report trans fats that are greater than 0.5 grams per serving. Read the ingredient list and look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” Both terms indicate that trans fat is present.
- Opt for the Real Thing. Many folks often choose the low fat, sugar-free, or fat-free varieties of splurge foods and end up feeling dissatisfied. Compare those labels with the original option to see if less fat or sugar is replaced with salt, preservatives, chemicals, or a laundry list of other additives. Oftentimes the real deal is the healthiest choice.
Junk Food Guides
For a salty fix. Be careful not to overshoot your daily recommended sodium allowance of 2,300 milligrams daily, or less. Take heed of the portion sizes of these common salty treats:
- Air popped popcorn with 1/8 teaspoon salt (2 cups): 62 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams sugar, 296 milligrams sodium
- Whole wheat pretzels (1 ounce) 110 calories, 2 gram fat, less than 3 grams sugar, 100 milligrams
- One ounce of chips (about 15): 150 calories, 10 grams fat, 149 milligrams
For a sweet fix. Candy = sugar. Don’t fall for labels that claim the candy is fat-free. Sugar is naturally fat-free. Mind your portions, and make reasonable substitutions. For example, you may choose to eat a small amount of candy and skip another source of sugar during the day, such sugar in coffee or drinking a sugary beverage. Here’s a rundown of some favorites:
- Gummi Bears (15 pieces): 130 calories, 19.5 grams sugar
- Licorice (4 sticks): 160 calories, 19 grams sugar
- Jelly Beans (28 small): 105 calories, 20 grams sugar
For a chocolate fix. Chocolate contains both fat and sugar and tends to be more calorie-laden than other sugary sweets. Still, one ounce can be very satisfying.
- White chocolate (one ounce): 144 calories, 8.75 grams fat, 16.25 grams sugar.
- Milk chocolate (one ounce): 152 calories, 8.4 grams fat, 14.6 grams sugar .
- Dark chocolate (one ounce; 70-85% cocoa): 156 calories, 11.3 grams fat, 8.5 grams sugar. Although dark chocolate contains more fat, it also contains theobromine, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and may help reduce blood pressure. Opt for varieties that contain at least 70 percent cocoa.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.