Um, no? Or is that a trick question? Come on, how could junk food be healthy? Pretty much anyone, if stopped in the street, would say that it’s called ‘junk food’ for a reason … because it’s not healthy. Even though that belief doesn’t stop fast food outlets from proliferating and making huge profits out of selling it to us.
These places are popular – at any time of day or night, if they are open, they are serving huge numbers of people.
So where’s the logic here? If this food is so bad for us, why do so many of us eat it?
What if the government health department suddenly announced that there were no more health benefits to eating an apple than a Big Mac? Would that suddenly make junk food healthy? Or are we still asking the wrong questions when it comes to our food choices?
I would argue that labelling food as healthy or unhealthy is approaching it from the wrong angle. Would you consider that bread, fruit and nuts are healthy foods are unhealthy for you?
For someone with coeliac, IBS or Crohn’s Disease, wheat products cause terrible pain and could be fatal.
Some people would suffer anaphylactic shock and could die if they eat strawberries.
Others have a severe reaction to nuts which could kill them if untreated.
I have yet to hear of anyone (without one of the conditions above) being allergic to MacDonalds or KFC.
And do you remember being told, ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’? It may be a cliché, but it’s worth looking at a bit more closely. The key for me here is ‘a little’ – my definition of healthy is that a little of anything isn’t going to be unhealthy. For those of us lucky enough not to have to be careful of what we eat because of a health condition, the occasional junk food meal or snack is not unhealthy – particularly if my body wants that type of food.
I would draw the line at eating exclusively from junk food establishments simply because they don’t offer enough of a variety of food for me to feel that I was eating healthily – but I don’t rule them out completely because they are part of the variety that I value in my food intake. I don’t often fancy junk food, but when I do, I eat it if it is available. And I eat it in a Beyond Chocolate way – I have Tuned In and found out that’s what I want; I sit down with it and focus on it; I eat with awareness and stop when satisfied.
So in answer to my question in the title – I prefer not to ask myself that question about junk food. It is one of a range of options open to me when I want it and eating it with awareness is arguably healthier for me than overeating something I didn’t want that would conventionally be regarded as healthy. Eating more food than my body wants is over-eating, regardless of whether it’s junk food or a salad, it’s not nourishing. Tuning in and honouring what my body does want is, for me, the healthy option.