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Hey, Kids!
"Junk Food" or Just Food?

(Continued from EdWorld At Home)

If you look at the United States Department of Agriculture's new "Food Pyramid," and the animation of it at "Tour My Pyramid," you see a big change. The pyramid is no longer only about how much you eat of different kinds of foods. Now, "steps" on the side of the pyramid remind you that you have to balance your intake of food with exercise.

The idea of "balance" is the basic idea behind being healthy. If you eat too much of any one thing, even a healthy thing, if it crowds out something else you need, it's not healthy. In a way, even something healthy like fish or whole-grain bread can be "junk food" if you don't balance it with other foods.

What is "Junk Food?'

So is that what people mean by "junk food?" Not usually. The name "junk food" is usually used to describe candy, soda, chips, and other foods that give you only a small amount of good content and a high amount of sugar or salt.

That's a bad trade for your body. And in case you think "well, I'm young. I can eat better later," well, you might be interested to learn that junk food has been linked to getting "older" faster. That's right. In research, a diet that had too much "junk food" in it at a young age was shown to make it harder to fight off the effects of getting older later on.

Fit or Fat

It might sound unfair, but you can't take care of this problem just by eating all the "good" stuff first and then adding a lot of junk food. Remember, this is all about balance. If you have too much food (too many calories) compared to how much you exercise, you will gain weight. Gaining a lot of weight, at any age, is a huge problem for your health.

If you eat a good balance of grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat & beans, and other 'basic' foods, and you get plenty of exercise, most people can "get away" with a few "treats" like a candy bar, a soda, a bag of chips, or an ice cream cone.

Use the Food Pyramid information to understand the basics of good eating and the balance between eating and exercise. The USDA Web site also has a chart so you can see how many calories are burned by different kinds of activities. When you know you're eating a balanced diet from the basic food groups and you have a good idea of how many calories you're burning through exercise, you can actually work out where that 300 calorie chocolate bar might fit into your week.

Meanwhile, look at this Healthy Food Shopping List ... Many people can get a lot healthier just by finding something that is both healthy AND a food that they really like!

Good luck!

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