Health Watch -- Junk Food (Part 3)

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

How much junk food is too much?

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you don't have to totally eliminate junk food from your diet. You just have to remember two keys: serving size and moderation.

Serving size counts whether you're eating junk food or some of the more nutritious alternatives. You can't eat all you want of any food, even if it's low-fat or low-carb. If you're substituting graham crackers for cookies, that doesn't mean you eat an entire stack of crackers at one sitting. The only exception is vegetables served raw or steamed, without added fats or sauces. You can generally eat all you want of those.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says a good way to judge portion size for foods like potato chips is to think of the small snack-sized bags that are sold in variety packs for packing in school lunch boxes. In other words, eat about a handful of chips. Look at the label on packaged foods for recommended serving sizes. It's best to enjoy junk foods in moderation, no more than about three times a week.

One good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the less processed a food is, the more nutritious it's likely to be and the lower in calories. A baked potato is better than French fries or potato chips. You can eat more of it for the same amount of calories, and you'll feel more satisfied. You'll also get more nutritional value.


Sept. 2004

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