It’s pretty common for someone to need a snack to get through the day. The type of snack that is chosen, however, can have a direct impact on overall health. Unfortunately many of us are choosing to eat junk food instead of a healthy snack when we’re hungry.
Junk food accounts for 28.8% of the total caloric intake of the average American right now.
Junk Food Consumption
Junk food is defined as being soft drinks, desserts, sweets, fast food, alcoholic beverages, salted snacks, and fruit-flavored beverages. For kids under the age of 18, the statistics are even worse. Nutrient-poor foods account for over 30% of the total calories that today’s kids are eating. What’s worse is the fact that those who eat the most junk food tend to also eat lower amounts of nutrient-dense foods.
- 80% of Americans report that they eat at a fast food restaurant at least once per month, despite believing that fast food isn’t good for them.
- Only 4% of Americans say they never eat at fast food restaurants.
- The percentage of Americans who believe that fast food is very good for a person’s health: 2%.
- 57% of Americans in the 18-29 age demographic saying they eat fast food or other junk food at least weekly.
- 53% of men report eating fast food regularly while 42% of women admit to the same thing.
- During 2007–2010, adults consumed, on average, 11.3% of their total daily calories from fast food.
- The consumption of calories from fast food significantly decreased with age.
- The percentage of total daily calories from fast food increased as weight status increased.
There is a direct correlation to the busyness of life and the consumption of junk food. When life becomes hectic, the idea of picking up a quick bite to eat that takes virtually no time seems like a good idea at the time. For Americans especially, who are working longer hours to earn a static income, it could be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic that is being faced. More than one-third of Americans have a BMI that is greater than 30. When people have more weight that they are carrying, the statistics show that they eat more fast food. This creates a negative cycle of junk food cravings that leads to health that is even worse than before.
How Bad Is The Junk Food Problem?
- Consumption of empty calories far exceeds the corresponding discretionary calorie allowance for all sex and age groups in the United States.
- Some kids obtain up to 50% of their calories from just six foods.
- The food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion per year marketing to children.
- Kids watch an average of over ten food-related ads every day, which adds up to over 4,000 food related advertisements over the course of a full year.
- The fast food industry spends $5 million every day to market foods that are ultimately unhealthy to families with children.
- Ad spending for interactive video games is projected to reach $1 billion by 2014.
- 98% of the food products that are viewed by children are items that are high in salt, fat, and sugar.
- The percentage of food advertisements that are for items that are low in fiber: 79%.
The problem isn’t just with the kids. Let’s get that straight right now. Parents who toss in a microwaveable meal because they’ve had a long day at work and don’t care any more about what is being eaten sends a bad message to their kids. It says that work is more important than health. Cheap meals might be something that can be a treat or an occasional event on a truly bad day, but when it becomes a nightly habit, eating problems are going to quickly develop. Junk food is incredibly addicting. If it is seen as tasty, affordable, and good to eat, then who would want to eat a carrot when there’s a cheeseburger on the table?
What Can Be Done To Fix The Problem?
- Only 21% of youth age 6-19 eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Only 12% of the grains that children under the age of 19 eat daily are considered whole grains.
- When children are exposed to television content with food advertising, they eat 45% more food than children exposed to content with non-food advertising.
- A 2011 review found that “company pledges to reduce food marketing of unhealthy products have failed to protect children under the age of 12 for all types of marketing practices promoting such foods.
- Each day, African-American children see 2x the amount of calories advertised in fast-food commercials as Caucasian children.
- A 2007 study found that 50% of the food products that were advertised with fruit on the packaging contained no fruit ingredients at all.
- 84% of the food products that have images which promote healthy eating actually didn’t meet basic nutritional standards.
- Food advertising has been found to affect the eating habits of children up to 5 years after being exposed to them.
- Healthcare costs associated with a poor direct could reach $1 trillion by 2030 in the United States alone.
At one point, the junk food spent $40 billion to lobby the US government to stop from passing comprehensive industry reforms that would decrease the marketing of unhealthy foods. We are spending money on cravings for things that are artificially generated by the advertising we see and this is eventually going to cost us our health in the end. This marketing is dangerous, especially to young children, because they see an advertisement as being 100% fact. They’ll believe something is good for them if they are told it is, even if it is high in unhealthy fats. It is up to us to take charge of our health for ourselves and our children. If we can do that, then we can potentially lower obesity rates.