Archive for the ‘junk food’ Tag

Not Using What’s Provided, Part 2   Leave a comment

A few months ago I wrote a post about reducing waste by not mindlessly using all the “free” “convenience” products that we are often surrounded with. Recent occurances at work have made me aware of a related topic: providing your own stuff instead of using the “free” stuff that is provided.

The first example is tissue products. My office keeps a cabinet stocked with boxes of tissues for employees to take as needed for their individual offices. I buy my own tissues instead. Why spend my own money when my company is already providing the same thing? Because it is really important to me to use paper products that are not chlorine bleached. (I don’t care as much about whether they’re made of recycled content, but I’ve yet to find tissue products that aren’t labeled as both or neither). It is worthwhile to me to buy my own tissues and reduce by even a tiny fraction the pollution caused by chorine bleaching. Taking it a step further, I have a small terry cloth hand towel that I hang near the entrance to my cubicle so that it is convenient to take with me into the restroom to use to dry my hands instead of using the paper towels.

The second example is tea and hot chocolate. Like many offices, there’s always a pot or two of coffee brewing in the break room at my office and a tray of sugar, creamer, teabags, and hot chocolate mix packets. While I drink hot tea throughout the day, and occasionally enjoy a hot cocoa pick-me-up, until recently I almost never partook of those offerings. Instead I keep quite the selection of teas at my desk (peak was 19 different kinds, including medicinal), and a tin of cocoa mix. It is very important to me that tea and chocolate be fair trade certified, or fairly traded for herbs when there’s no certification available. Currently, I’m out of tea as I switch from tea bags to loose teas and in the intervening time since I’m out of tea I’m taking the lazy(?) way out and instead of doing without I’m using the macha tea provided in the break room. I hope that since it is a Japanese tea, it might be actually grown in Japan where fair trade certification does not apply.

My third example is junk food snacks. One of my strategies for reducing junk food consumption and trash is to bring my own snacks to the office. A square of high quality fair-trade dark chocolate and/or a piece of fresh fruit at my desk helps me ward off the siren call of a Reese’s cup or cookie left over from someone’s meeting. The sugary snacks in the break room usually offer me zero satisfaction, contribute to long term increased sugar cravings, and create relatively high volume of waste. My sweet snacks provide me with as much satisfaction as I want, and create little to no non-biodegradable waste. A container of carrots, tomatoes, or other vegetables helps me keep away from the bags of chips in the break room, and was instrumental in overcoming my cracker addiction.

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What Exactly Is Junk Food?   4 comments

While developing goals for the next six months in the shadow of my junk food weekend, I contemplated making one of the goals to completely eliminate junk food from my regular life. That made me wonder, though, “what is junk food, specifically?”

The dictionary defines “junk food” as food that is high in calories and low in nutritional value, which is a really vague definition. Wikipedia and a variety of blogs define junk food as chips, candy, gum, “most sweet desserts”, fried fast food, and sodas. But it seems to me that there is some gray in even the more specific description. So at what point does something qualify as “junk food?” Please add your two cents in the comments. I’m guessing the definition is slightly different person-to-person.

The first things that come to my mind when I think “junk food” are chips and candy. Undoubtably all chips are junk, even the ones made from bananas, apples, or beets, because they are slivered, fried, and salted. The salt and oil content outweighs any nutritional value inherent in the chip-ed vegetable/fruit. Things get a little more fuzzy to me with candy. Most broadly marketed candy is pretty much flavored sugar, and would indisputably be considered junk. But I always here people lament that they can’t give up their chocolate, and I’m not sure where that really falls. In my opinion Hersey’s is junk, but what about a small square of a 70% or 82% cocoa fair trade chocolate bar that contains approximately one teaspoon of sugar in the entire bar? To me the square isn’t junk because it is low in sugar and not high fat, but am I justifying a quasi-daily chocolate habit? If one square is ok, is half a bar ok or does that cross the line? And then there’s the issue of substitute candy: dried fruit. Hand me a bag of dried tart cherries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries, and I’m as happy as any kid in a candy shop. But those dried fruits are LOADED with sugar, and should probably be categorized as junk food when eaten alone, despite the fact that they are fruit and therefor contain at least some nutrients. I did buy dried tart cherries for my junk food weekend because they ARE my candy. Where does ice cream fit in, too? It is after all frozen sugared fat. Even sorbet and sherbet, marketed as healthy because they are low fat, contain lots of sugar.

The next thing that comes to my mind are cookies. And again I may be making excuses for myself. Oreos: junk, circus animals: junk, Fig Newtons: ?, graham crackers: ok?, home-baked Toll House cookies: junk? home-baked oatmeal cookies loaded with nuts and dried fruit: ok? Every Christmas when my mom makes that last item in the list, the cookie recipe she tweeked for me when I was in college, I refer to them as “breakfast cookies” and feel absolutely no guilt eating them any time of day. I gave them an extra boost when I made them this year with 100% whole wheat flour instead of white flour. But while those cookies are relatively low in sugar and relatively high in health ingredients, they are still based on wheat flour. White wheat flour might as well be considered sugar since it converts to sugar really quickly during digestion. So if cookies that are high in sugar and white flour are junk, what about scones and cakes, or crackers that are high in salt and white flour? I would say so, especially after the experience of overcoming my personal cracker addiction and switching to vegetable snacks a couple of years ago. Crackers just have no real nutritional value by themselves (other than the fortified flour). But what about bread? Is there a difference between crackers and bread? While I would consider Wonder Bread to be junk, a good loaf of pugliese is one of my weaknesses, and I’m loathe to call it junk.

So my personal summary list of junk food is chips and other fried snack foods, candy (except for low-sweetening dark chocolate), cookies (with a few exceptions), store-bought white flour scones, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit that has added sugar (so excludes raisins, apricots, and peaches), sodas, french fries not part of a meal, ice cream beyond one small scoop, and any other packaged food that contains ingredients that I can’t picture in my mind. That’s a challenge.

Posted February 24, 2011 by mayakey in food, goals

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The Aftermath Of The Junk Food Weekend   3 comments

I wasn’t planning to participate in Rhonda Jean’s “On my mind…” but this morning as I walked past the garbage can I was reminded that there is a single image that captures what has been on my mind all this week: the garbage can stuffed with the packaging from my junk food weekend last weekend.

It’s been on my mind all week because I didn’t enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed not having a to-do list for two days (even if it was very hard for me to let go of being busy). What I didn’t enjoy was the junk food! Several years ago, the last time I did one of these, junk food was a special treat. Apparently when you make enough lifestyle changes, (certain) junk food can go from being a special treat to being something that isn’t even desirable any more. Maybe next time even the chips won’t be appealing any more.

The specific thing that struck me when I walked by the garbage was just how full it is. We just use a bucket as our kitchen garbage can, and even then it doesn’t usually fill up in a week. But with all of the junk food packaging in there, it is overflowing now! This is oddly comforting to me, since I generally feel like we produce way too much garbage normally. I guess as we’ve cut down on the packaged foods that we eat, I hadn’t even noticed the reduction in our total garbage volume. (I’m not the one who empties the garbage cans every week.)

Posted February 18, 2011 by mayakey in food, resource use

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Junk Reward   Leave a comment

“Everything in moderation, even moderation.” That’s one of my personal mantras. So this weekend, in reward for meeting my goal to no longer eat in front of the TV, I am splurging in a junk food weekend. Truthfully, I didn’t completely manage to stop eating in front of the TV. Just meals and a significant reduction in snacks. And there’s nothing better to celebrate not eating meals in front of the TV than to spend a weekend eating junk food and having no to-do list or commitments. I used to do this one weekend every year or two, but haven’t  in several years. In fact, I think the last time I did this was when my husband and I were still dating and he was going to be gone one weekend. So it was an entirely new experience for him to put “junk food for Maya” on the shopping list. Not that we don’t ever buy junk food in small quantities. Coming home with Double Stuff Oreos, mint Oreos, shortbread, Chessmen, frosted cookies, dried cherries, crackers, Boursin, potato chips, and Terra chips was a new experience for him. (And I can say that my eating habits have improved because I found that I can’t eat as many Oreos in one sitting as I used to; I might not be up for the challenge of the junk food.)

The goal to stop eating in front of the TV is a goal with many roots. The first is that TV just sucks up too much of my time and makes my head spin. Even though the vast majority of the programming holds no interest for me, there is just enough to keep me drawn in. Time gets lost that I could be using to read, or work on any of the many projects always in progress. Theoretically, not eating dinner in front of the TV means I’m less likely to lose an hour or two in an evening to the magic box. Realistically it means some nights the TV stays off and some nights I need a fix.

The second reason is because I’d like to eat healthier and lighter, which is easier to do when eating without distraction. Food is more satisfying when you are actually paying attention to it. Plus, when one pays attention to one’s food, one is likely to eat it slower and fill up on less. Of course, unappetizing food is best consumed with distraction and in a hurry; but who likes to eat food that doesn’t taste good?

The third reason is that, like many people in decades past, I grew up eating dinner with my family around the dinner table every day. That’s one of the best ways for a family to bond, and I have to say those family meals are very fond memories. I want to be able to do that with my future family. Shutting off the TV and sitting myself down in the dining room is the first step.

Posted February 12, 2011 by mayakey in goals, self-care

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Drawbacks to Not Buying Junk Food   Leave a comment

Ugh. Days like today almost make me regret that we rarely buy junk food to keep at home. Ever have those days when all you want to do when you get home from work is cuddle up on the sofa with something labor-free, salty (or sweet if that’s your junk food preference), and a little bit greasy? Well this past work day was like that for me. But we were good this week and we have no real junk food in the house. That’s not always the case, occasionally we have chips; and I almost broke down and bought cheddar bunnies while grocery shopping last weekend.

Since most of the time that a junk food craving hits there’s no junk food in the house, I’ve learned how to fake it or just wait a craving out. Today a small bowl of the roasted salted sunflower seeds that we keep for salads, and a few slivers of Drunken Goat cheese sufficed. I suppose since “roasted” nuts and seeds are actually fried, the sunflower seeds could be considered a true junk food. Until I figure out how to make our own dry-roasted salted nuts and seeds, though, I don’t consider them to be junk.

Posted September 2, 2010 by mayakey in food

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