I hear a lot about “junk foods”, but I’m not always sure what’s included in that definition.

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Junk foods aren’t just candy, potato chips, cookies, crackers, soft drinks and French fries. They’re also processed and over-processed foods found in the supermarket, often wrapped in cellophane. When you read the labels, you find that salt and sugar are high on the list of ingredients. Even a jar of spaghetti sauce may qualify as a junk food if it’s high in oil, salt and preservatives.

I encourage you to make every effort to serve whole foods (foods as they appear in nature), such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains. Whole foods that haven’t had the vitamins and nutrients processed out of them are much better for you than microwave dinners and potato chips.

This is a good time to mention those very common junk foods, soft drinks. It’s hard to walk more than a few steps without bumping into someone who has a cola can in their hand. The truth is that soft drinks are nothing but gassy, flavored sugar water. To make things worse, they don’t even quench thirst because the body loses liquid trying to digest the sugar. Furthermore, these drinks contain phosphoric acid which robs the body of calcium and is caustic enough to clean metal!

The one-calorie varieties are no better, and in some ways may be even worse for you. Artificial sweeteners were never intended to be ingested in the large amounts we find in our foods today. I would rather a child have a little sugar than an artificial sweetener.

So soft drinks really do rate as liquid junk foods. They contain unhealthy amounts of sugar or sweetener, phosphoric acid and gas. They offer only very low levels of nutrients and can actually make you thirstier. Keep them out of your child!

Instead of soft drinks, offer interesting fruit or vegetable juice combinations. Whenever possible, use your kitchen juicer and encourage your children to help you think up new ways to combine fruits. Always dilute fruit juices with an equal amount of water. For a special treat, you can add naturally-sparkling mineral water. The 50-50 dilution of the juice with water will cut down on the amount of natural sugar your children get from the fruit. If you allow youngsters to drink pure fruit juice, you’ll be very aware of the roller coaster effect sugar has on their emotions and behavior.

One more warning. If you read the labels, most fruit juice has words like ‘cocktail” or “flavored” on the label. These juices have a high concentration of sugar syrup. Always look for natural juices and make certain that you dilute them just as you do the fresh juice.

Where your children are concerned, water or diluted natural fruit juice is always a better choice.

Soft Drink Experiment
A convincing experiment for most children is to pour a glass of the most popular cola drink and leave a dirty penny in it overnight. The next morning, the penny will be as shiny as new. If cola does that to metal, think what it does to the lining of your child’s stomach!

Please remember…..
Be gentle as you are making dietary improvements for your family. Some families do well with a drastic and complete change and some require a more gradual approach that leads them to a very occasional indulgence of a favorite food. Find what works for your family as you walk this path to improving your health by improving your foods.