Health Watch -- Junk Food (Part 1)

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How much of what you eat every day is junk food?

Recent statistics about the number of Americans who are obese are a pretty good sign that Americans aren't always eating the way we should. But a study released last summer made it clear just how bad our eating habits are. Researchers in California found that nearly a third of the calories consumed by American adults are from what might be called junk food - sweets, salty snacks, soft drinks and alcohol. These are foods that have little or no nutritional value. The percentage of "junk" calories has gone up by 1 percent since the last time this study was done.

What's alarming is that this figure is an average, which means that some people eat even more than a third of their calories in junk food. The California researchers say teen-agers who drink a lot of sodas and eat a lot of salty snacks may be getting even more of their daily food intake from junk food.

Not only does this amount of junk food mean that many Americans are getting more calories than they need, it also means they may not be getting the nutrition they need.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says one way to tell if a food is junk food is if the numbers on the bottom of the nutrition label, where nutrients like vitamins, iron and calcium are listed, are at or close to zero.

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Sept. 2004

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