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Taking The Junk Out of Food

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 14 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Junk Food Fat Overweight Weight Diet

At breakfast do you pass up the cereal for the pancakes? Do you eat fast food more than twice each week? When you start a pack of cookies do you keep going to the end? If you answer yes to these questions, you could be a junk food junky.

Junk food contains a lot of calories, more than you need to maintain health and energy levels. But unfortunately this doesn't mean people are getting healthier. The calories in junk food do not contain the basic nutrients that are essential for good health. What's more, often people will continue to eat, even when they are full. If you develop a junk food habit, before too long you'll find yourself noticing a few changes in how you feel, including:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Lack of motivation, particularly for physical activity
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Dull, listless hair
  • Unhealthy skin
  • Upset stomach, heartburn, indigestion
  • Frequent colds, minor illnesses
Many nutritionists say that there is no such thing as bad food, only a bad diet. What this means is that it's okay to have an ice cream or a burger now and again, as long as they are incorporated into a healthy diet. It's not hard to keep your diet on the healthy track and make it tasty at the same time; all you need to do is make a few simple adjustments.

Getting The Day Off to a Good Start

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should make time to sit down and eat a healthful one. A donut on the run is only going to give you a quick rush of energy that will run out just about the time you get to the office. A nutritious breakfast however, will get you through till lunch time.

Try some healthy breakfast options like these:

  • Whip yourself up a shake in the blender, with milk or yogurt and your favourite fruits, vanilla or honey.
  • Cottage cheese with apple or pineapple pieces.
  • Peanut butter and raisin sandwiches.
  • A wholegrain bagel with fat free cream cheese or sour cream.

Smartening Up Your Lunch

The foods you eat can affect your concentration and memory skills. Foods rich in iron, including whole grains and beans, are excellent for improving mental performance.

Though these are generally more difficult to absorb than animal sources, vitamin C will help enhance your intake, so you should consider including sources such as citrus fruits, strawberries, red peppers, broccoli, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and kiwis in your meal. There are two amino acids in the brain (L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine) which compete with each other to control brain function. Both these chemicals are essential to the processes of alertness, clear thinking and concentration. L-tyrosine production is stimulated by protein rich foods such as beans, nuts and soya. The brain uses L-tryptophan to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for relaxation and satiety and slowing down reaction time. L-tryptophan production is stimulated by foods such as sunflower seeds, milk and carbohydrate rich food. Because these chemicals compete with each other, if you want to stay focused and alert throughout the day, then the best thing it to eat protein rich foods. That way L-tyrosine will reach the brain first, and will keep your mental performance at maximum potential.

Snacks That Won't Let You Down

If your school lunch leaves you feeing a little peckish by the time you get home, try to avoid reaching for the cookies or leftover pizza. Healthful snacks will make you feel better and won't spoil your appetite come dinner time. Believe it or not, healthy options can be tasty to. Why not give some of these a try:
  • Go nuts for trail mix
  • Frozen fruit bars or yoghurt are a great cooler on a hot day
  • Chopped veggies and sliced boiled eggs with a ranch dip

Digging Your Dinner

Back at home your dinner time choices are unlimited. Aim to avoid the temptation of grabbing pre-packaged TV dinners from the freezers. It's worth making the effort to make something more nutritious because you'll feel more satisfied and you will end up with a meal containing fewer additives. Here are some simple ideas that are easily to make;
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables
  • Grilled fish (salmon or tuna) with rice and vegetables
  • Chicken and bean burrito
  • Pasta salad
  • Green salad with boiled shrimp

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