ROTATION DIET AND BUILDING CONFIDENCE: A NOTE ON JUNK FOOD
A "junk food" is a food that supplies a larger percentage of your total daily need for calories (the amount it takes to maintain your weight) than it does of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of any single essential vitamin or mineral.
Read some food labels and you will see exactly what I mean. For example, take the label from a chocolate bar. It is a 1.45-ounce bar, which you can pick up at any grocery. The label says that it contains 230 calories. If you are a woman who needs about 1800 calories a day to maintain your weight at the present time, 230 calories is almost 13 percent (it is actually 12.7 percent) of the calories you need to maintain your weight. However, the most that this chocolate bar contains of any one essential vitamin or mineral is just 8 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of calcium (because of the milk content). In other words, junk foods contain relatively more weight-maintaining calories than they do health-sustaining essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
If you will think about it for just a minute, I think you will see that, if your diet is composed to a large extent of junk foods, you will reach (or go beyond) your required number of weight-maintenance calories but you will still be undernourished in terms of essential vitamins and minerals. Although I cannot prove this point, I think another reason that many persons may be stimulated to overeat when their diets contain many junk foods is that their bodies are pushing them to take in enough food to meet its nutritional needs in vitamins and minerals.
A serving of a truly nourishing food contains a larger percentage of at least three or four of the essential vitamins and minerals—those nutrients you need to maintain health and fitness —than it does of your total daily need for calories.
Now consider how you can ruin a perfectly nourishing food. Take a potato, for example. A 3%-ounce baked potato contains about 90 calories (compared with the 230 calories in just 1.45 ounces of milk chocolate). Ninety calories is only 5 percent of the total calories that it takes to maintain your weight (at 1800 calories per day). But that 3y2-ounce baked potato is a powerhouse when it comes to nourishment. For each 5 percent of your total daily calories, it contains (based on Recommended Dietary Allowances) approximately:
7 percent of your daily protein needs
8 percent of your phosphorus needs
10 percent of your thiamine needs
13 percent of your niacin needs
33 percent of your vitamin С needs
plus about 25 percent of the suggested minimum for potassium, and a broad array of traces of other vitamins and minerals. (That potassium content makes it excellent for helping to prevent water retention, since the potato contains almost no sodium and a high potassium-to-sodium ratio helps the kidneys eliminate excess water from the system.)
Now, look what happens when you peel and fry up these otherwise nutritious potatoes and convert them to French fries: a similar 3 1/2 -ounce serving will add up to approximately 275 calories! You have added over 180 calories' worth of fat! And you will have almost succeeded in converting that poor potato into a junk food. In a 90-calorie serving (that's less than 1.2 ounces, or just about three or four little strips, rather than a whole baked potato), you will obtain only:
3.5 percent of your daily protein needs
4.6 percent of your phosphorus needs 4 percent of your thiamine needs
7.7 percent of your niacin needs
11 percent of your vitamin С needs
and only about 11 percent of the suggested minimum for potassium.
In just about every way, except for fat calories, you have cut the nutritional value of a potato by about two-thirds when you eat French fries. Every time that you eat fried foods, this is what you are doing: you are tripling the calories per serving, or, for equal calorie servings, you are cutting the other nutritional value of your food by about two-thirds!
Begin to read some of the labels on those foods that tempt you to overeat. Check out all dessert and snack foods, including salty, rather than sweet, snacks. You will see that, in just about every case, they contain a larger percentage of your total daily calorie needs than they contain of even one vitamin or mineral. By eating a large amount of junk food, you may be keeping yourself fat and malnourished at the same time!
Because we vary in our daily need for calories at maintenance levels, I suggest you use the following rule of thumb for determining whether a food falls into the "junk" category: Examine the label and simply calculate whether it contains 5 percent of the RDA of at least one vitamin or mineral for every 100 calories. Thus, if a serving of some snack, according to the label of the package, is 100 calories, it ought to have 5 percent of at least one essential vitamin or mineral listed; if a serving is 200 calories, it ought to have 10 percent of at least one vitamin or mineral.
Really nutritious foods that you can use as snacks, such as the grapefruit that I used as my safe fruit, have a much higher percentage of essential vitamins and minerals than they do of your weight-maintenance calories. For example, 100 calories' worth of grapefruit (I prefer pink varieties) contains 7 percent of the RDA for iron, 22 percent of vitamin A, 12 percent of thiamine, 5 percent of riboflavin, 5 percent of niacin, 192 percent of vitamin C, and about 14 percent of potassium. And since grapefruit contains virtually no sodium, that high potassium content makes it an excellent food for persons who tend to retain water.
If you have difficulty making good food choices, I hope these words will increase your motivation to reduce permanently the junk food in your diet and to begin to make more nutritious substitutions for snacks and desserts.