Junk food is everywhere.... literally everywhere.
It's at the front of each aisle to draw you over, it's right when you walk into the grocery or convenience store, and it's ALL over advertisements on TV, billboards, and the radio. It's hard to escape from the processed junk food surrounding us at every corner. You can drive down the main road in my town and pass at least 10-15 different fast food restaurants. We're basically drowning in calories.
Fast food, pizza, froyo, ice cream, fried foods, frappuccinos, processed and packaged foods... they are all chemical shit storms. These foods that are easily available and accessible are extremely calorie-dense, processed, and filled with tons and tons of added sugar.
I was watching a documentary and they listed a statistic that said "74.`% of the United States is overweight or obese." Wait what? YES. SEVENTY FOUR PERCENT. Almost 3/4 of the U.S. population. And if that's not enough to shock you, the documentary also mentioned that "at current rates, by 2030, 1 billion people will be obese." And a LOT of these people are CHILDREN.
What's the culprit you ask?
SUGAR. Specifically added sugars in the diet.
Over the last three decades, adult consumption of sugars in the U.S. has increased by 30% (according to www.obesity.org/news/press-releases/us-adult). The article also mentioned that, "Even more alarming is the fact that the top 20% of adult consumers are eating 721 calories from added sugar per day, on average. This is equally alarming for the top 20% of children who are consuming on average 673 calories from added sugar per day." And you know what's also increasing? The amount of people with DIABETES and chronic illnesses. Coincidence? I don't think so.
The obesity rate in children is alarming and constantly climbing. Children are beginning to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. You can enter any elementary or middle school and overweight children aren't hard to find. I actually found myself while watching a documentary about overweight children saying, "he's not THAT fat." Yeah... I had to check myself and rethink what I had just said. I shouldn't have to say that about any child. It's scary and sad when looking around and seeing the obesity epidemic with children first hand as I student taught during college. Looking around at the snacks and lunches children had, everything was filled with added sugars. To name a few: candy, goldfish, gummies, fruit roll-ups, cereal, pop-tarts, PB & J's on white bread, yogurts, snack packs, cookies, tasty cakes, donuts, and more.
But Halie, those children aren't reading your blog. Correct, but you know who is? Those who have the POWER to create change. As parents and educators, YOU are in control of what foods you are buying for your child. Who packs their lunch? Parents do. Who goes to the grocery store to buy their food? Parents do. Up until a certain age, children aren't in control of what they eat. Parents are providing them with their meals and snacks as well as the school. School lunches are for another blog....
The point is that your children are a direct product of the environment that YOU create for them, the habits you teach them, and the relationship with food that you build with them.
What are these added sugars and what foods contain them?
Added sugar is the syrups and fake artificial sugars/sweeteners that are added to most processed/packaged foods. Sadly, there are way too many "foods" readily available and accessible that contain added sugars. The www.choosemyplate.gov/what-are-added-sugars has a great list of the general foods containing added sugars and also sugars to watch out for when purchasing foods with the ingredients listed on the food label. Here is some of what they listed & more:
Why is sugar and junk food so bad if it tastes so good?
Junk food is addicting. People literally have an addiction-like relationship with food and don't even realize the severity of it. Most people aren't addicted to broccoli and cauliflower.... they are addicted to calorie-dense comfort food that is filled with added sugars and fats. Processed food is similar to alcohol or drugs with it's addictive properties. It releases dopamine (the feel good chemical we often seek) and the brain is tricked into feeling happy thoughts and that it likes this food. Your brain then makes you want to seek out those same types of foods in the future and relates the tastes and smells to happiness. The sights and smells and tastes of the foods become compelling to the brain and then it becomes an addiction. When people are in a tough situation or had a bad day and are feeling down, they seek out these comfort foods because they emotionally make them feel better. But at what cost? The cost is increasing the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart attacks.... weight gain.... cancer.... the list goes on & on.
What can you do to make a change?
Clearly, processed food and sugar is the problem. There's two words that can solve this issue: REAL FOOD.
Start incorporating more whole foods into your diet that are high in fiber, nutrients, and contain minimal ingredients. Avoid additives like sugars and ingredients you can't pronounce. Consume more vegetables, fruits, organic and grass-fed proteins, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, quinoa, oats, organic dairy, and oils like avocado or olive oil. Think more foods that come from plants and animals, and less food that is manufactured in plants.
Aim to focus LESS on the cost of organic and healthy foods, and more on the QUALITY of those foods and the nutrients it will give to your body. Food shouldn't be cheap. Buy organic, buy local, buy fresh.
Start logging your food intake with a tracking app and monitor your overall calories and sugars in your daily diet. Create awareness for yourself. If you aren't aware of what you are eating, you can't expect to create change.
Clean out your pantry/cabinets of processed junk foods. Out of sight, out of mind.
And lastly, educate yourselves and educate your CHILDREN on the dangers of poor nutrition and no exercise.
Make small daily, weekly, or monthly changes that will last a BIG time.
I am passionate about creating a healthy lifestyle for myself & helping those around me.