Unjunk your Junk Food ($17.99, published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster) is a cute little paperback book that packs an unexpectedly brainy punch. Although the cover art leaves me cold and I don’t agree with all of their junk food alternative choices, I was genuinely surprised by what I found in between the covers. Authors Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer’s food philosophy seems to be one of clean eating. In my understanding, clean eating aims to avoid artificial colors and preservatives, GMO foods and preservatives. Clean eating, can, and should be embraced by vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike.This information in this book will make you a smarter food consumer. We desperately need to educate ourselves outside of the nutrition claims that are made by large agribusiness food processors such as General Mills, Frito-Lay and Pillsbury. People who eat clean, also tend to make mindful choices that extend beyond their plate. They are concerned about the health of their families and of the health of the environment. A person who eats clean, also eats mindfully. If you are a clean eater, or want to fine tune your understanding of nutrition, this book is for you.
Unjunk Your Junk Food will help you be more mindful of the snack foods that you choose. It does not ascribe to any particular dietary philosophy, but it embraces the fact that even the cleanest among us ( I am referring to foods, not my house cleaning philosophy, or lack thereof) will at some point in the week, or dare I say day, want to indulge in some junk food.
The authors explain that the key to unjunking is to become a fastidious label reader. I’ve been a fastidious label reader for 20 years (I sometimes wonder what my fellow shoppers think as I stand in the aisle scrutinizing labels). The authors cover things like calories, fat, fiber, sugar and sodium in this chapter. Unless you have a master’s degree in nutrition science, I promise that you will learn something here. I particularly love the paragraph on “fat” because they state that it is the type of fat rather than the amount of fat that matters. Hooray for them for taking a stand on this!! I go bonkers when I see recipes that are overly concerned about the fat grams and instead substitute processed foods that are low-fat but filled with artifice. Case in point: DON’T substitute chemical-laden Cool Whip for heavy cream that you whip yourself. With the heavy cream, you can control the amount of sugar you put in to sweeten it and you can choose the best possible quality heavy cream (organic and pastured, if you are lucky to find it). Now, don’t go eating loads of heavy cream, but if you are going to make a choice, make it as clean and whole as possible. Ok, I am getting off topic here, but the point is to stay away from chemicals. This book helps you do that.
This book is not a nutrition manual, it will not help you lose weight and it may even lead you astray if you misconstrue it as permission to eat tons of junk food. After the first few short chapters on label reading, back to basics nutrition and a very helpful chapter called “The Worst Ingredients”, the rest of the book is dedicated to junk food categories. Yup!-junk food categories such as chips and dips, cookies, ice cream, soda and other drinks. If you are really serious about avoiding chemical-laden foods, you will want to clip and laminate double-sided page 25 and 26 and keep it in your handbag for when you go shopping.
In each category, the authors give a “bad” choice and a “naturally savvy” choice. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t agree with all of their better choices, but the glossary, worst ingredients chart and detailed information on artificial sweeteners alone prevent this book from falling into “lightweight” category. It is a good reference for families looking to provide their children with better treats. Because, in actuality, even the good choices in this book should just be an occasional treat.
The author’s style of writing is warm, engaging and encouraging. The book is full of great info in the sidebars such as “Why you May be Craving Sugar”, “What is Glutamate”” and “Why You May be Craving Soda”. In short, this book is a compact, readable reference guide and something you will want to keep on a nearby shelf.