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Nutrition Diva's Guide to National Junk Food Day

Believe it or not, there is now a National Junk Food Day (July 21st). Nutrition Diva weighs in on how to enjoy junk food without sabotaging your diet.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
July 18, 2014

 

National Junk Food DayYes, for reasons I cannot fathom, there really is something called National Junk Food Day.  As if we needed another reason to celebrate our national addiction to energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods!  What's next? Drink More Soda Day? Enjoy A Cigarette Day? Drive Without Seatbelts Day?

Perhaps it's better to simply ignore these things. But as long as we're going to be subjected to such nonsense, I thought I'd put together a few tips on how to enjoy junk food.  

As most of you know, when it comes to diet, I am neither a purist nor a perfectionist. Although I'm not endorsing a steady diet of circus peanuts and cheez whiz, I think it's OK to eat something that's not particularly nutritious purely for the pleasure of it. But if you're going to indulge, be sure to make it count.

Rules for Splurging

1. Make sure it's something you really enjoy.  Don't succumb to junk foods that aren't even particularly appealing just because they are sitting there. Save your splurges for foods that you truly enjoy. I'll skip the circus peanuts, thank you, and wait for the Swedish Fish instead.  

2. Redefine indulgence. There's no law that says an indulgence has to be empty calories. Feel free to luxuriate instead in wholesome foods that you find particularly crave-worthy. Splurge on a pint of fresh raspberries and add a splash of creme fraiche. Or some high-end chocolate dipped in peanut or almond butter. 

3. Show up for it. When eating something purely for pleasure, be sure to be there when it happens! It's not an indulgence if you have no memory of the experience. Instead of mindlessly munching on M&Ms while you fill in your expense report, stop what you're doing and savor every one. Save the blue ones for last and linger even longer over those. 

See also: Why We Overeat

4. Savor then stop. A lot of us confuse indulgence with over-indulgence. An indulgence feels good. Over-indulgence does not.  Once you've decided what you're going to have and you've set aside time to mindfully enjoy it, decide ahead of time how much you're going to have.  Don't sit down with the entire carton of ice cream or bag of barbecue chips. Serve yourself up an indulgent serving and put the rest away. Resist the inevitable urge to go back for seconds as soon as the bowl is empty.  Instead, think for a few moments about how much you enjoyed your treat and then turn your attention to something else. 

5. Keep your perspective.  Obviously, eating a lot of junk food on a regular basis is not a recipe for good health. After a while, it's not even particularly enjoyable. But an occasional indulgence--in the context of a healthy diet--is not going to send you to an early grave. Remember that it's not how you eat on your worst day or your best day that matters but how you eat most days that counts. One of my favorite ways to keep things in perspective is to think in terms of my nutritional grade point average. Read more about that here. 

The great thing about this approach is that we don't have to wait for National Junk Food Day to have a little fun (and we don't have to spend the rest of the year regretting it).

How will you observe National Junk Food Day? 

Ice cream image courtesy of Shutterstock

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