I am not kidding! Each year on July 21st America observes National Junk Food Day, dedicated to the foods that everyone loves to snack on. By definition, junk foods are typically prepackaged food with very little nutritional value and little or no prep time that are usually high in fats, sugars, salt and calories.
No one seems to know the exact origin of this important day, but I suspect there’s a food manufacturer behind it somewhere. Apparently, the idea of the official day is to give people a chance to snack on junk foods without feeling guilty. That would be great if we felt guilty enough the other 364 days a year to not indulge. I’m all for a treat every once in awhile. In fact, I’m for a National Junk Food Day! Junk food once a year. Period. Even for my cancer patients.
The problem is that every day in America seems like National Junk Food Day. NBC News carried a story today documenting that Americans spent $62.5 billion on snack foods in the last year. That includes $7.2 billion on cookies, $6.5 billion on ice cream, $21.6 billion on candy, and $27.2 billion on pretzels. All told, nearly $300 per household annually (and for every one of you whose household spent less, your neighbor spent more)! Front and center on that post was an ad for Hershey’s s’mores pudding cups, just beneath information on diabetes and insulin. Does that tell you anything?
S’mores-flavored items are one of the hot junk-food trends of 2016, according to Gael Fashingbauer Cooper of CNET. That campfire dessert staple of chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers is now available in Chips Ahoy and Pepperidge Farm cookies, M&M’s, Klondike ice cream bars, Fiber One bars, and even s’mores-flavored gum.
Other popular new junk foods you must try are Key Lime Slime Ghostbuster Twinkies, French Toast Crunch Cereal, Mountain Dew Pitch Black, Crystal Pepsi, and soda-flavored pop tarts. And while you may not be getting any thinner, junk food is, so now you can find thin potato chips, Oreo Thins, and even Thinner Wheat Thins. Which isn’t necessarily good news, since skinnier snacks are easier to munch more of, so don’t assume “thinner” means you’re eating less.
I’ve already written plenty about refined sugar, especially as relates to cancer. No surprise our children have a one in two lifetime risk of cancer and diabetes. This morning on the Today Show we learned that American children are consuming 50 pounds of added sugars per year, the equivalent of 15 teaspoons a day. And added sugars are not only plentiful in known junk foods; there are also hidden sugars in other foods that are perceived as healthful — like yogurt, granola bars, and sports drinks.
But people love their serious junk. As stated today on one website, “Sometimes, the idea of being healthy, preparing a balanced meal, and snacking on carrot sticks isn’t too appealing. Junk Food Day is all about satisfying your cravings for something naughtier, greasier, and definitely more fattening than the nutritional but not-very-exciting meal you know that you really should be eating.”
Another site recommended that you celebrate the day by consuming your favorite junk food and post a selfie of yourself eating it on social media. Of course, you can also celebrate by taking your dog for a walk or doing some yard work to burn off those extra calories. And to satisfy your urge for snacking, definitely try BeatCancer’s Hungry for Health snack bars. Or try one of my desserts in Hungry for Health or Hungrier for Health – they are delicious, simple, nutritionally dense, and better for you than if you didn’t eat dessert at all! Happy indulging!
 Cooper GF. National Junk Food Day 2016 trends. Cnet.com. July 21, 2016. http://www.cnet.com/news/national-junk-food-day-2016-trends-hope-you-like-smores/