Can junk food be un-junked?
Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer, founders of naturallysavvy.com, believe it can and they've written a book to prove it.
"Unjunk Your Junk Food" ($17.99) seems small, yet the pages of this 6-inch square book are packed with information that makes for enlightening reading. Flipping through the pages I frequently found myself uttering, "I didn't know that."
Donsky and Boyer define junk food as highly processed, sugar-loaded foods that use artificial colors, artificial flavors and sometimes artificial sweeteners, as well as questionable preservatives and chemicals with difficult to pronounce names and may include genetically-modified ingredients.
The first 22 pages define those ingredients and finish with a cutout shopping chart listing "worst" or "questionable" ingredients.
For quick identification, "Bad Choice" products that follow with the "worst" ingredients as listed in the chart are highlighted in red; "questionable" ingredients highlighted in yellow.
Next they break up junk foods and naturally savvy recommendations into eight chapters by type, such as: "dips, chips and party foods," "cookies" and "soft drinks." Here's a sample of what you'll find.
In "cookies," Nabisco's Chips Ahoy! gets a "Bad Choice" seal due to partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (trans fats), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial flavor. Whole Foods' 365-brand organic chocolate chip cookies with fewer calories, less fat, lower sodium and less sugars received the "naturally savvy" seal of approval.
Rolo's chewy caramels in milk chocolate get the "Bad Choice" seal thanks to PGPH (chemical emulsifier), vanillin (artificial vanilla), artificial flavors, HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats). Newman's Own Organics milk chocolate caramel cups get the nod because of pure, natural ingredients.
Like chocolate pudding as much as I do? The author's give Snack Pack chocolate pudding the "Bad Choice" seal (hydrogenated oils, artificial color and flavors) and instead suggest Kozy Shack's chocolate pudding that even comes in with fewer calories (110 versus 130), less fat (1 g to 3 g), more fiber (4:1) and fewer carbs.
Wondering how to "unjunk" your diet soda? The authors suggest checking out Blue Sky Free Cola sweetened with erythritol (considered a naturally derived sugar substitute).
At the book's end, there's a useful 18-page glossary of food additive and ingredient terms, followed by a comprehensive list of approved brands.
After you take a look at "Unjunk," you may wonder what you did without it.
Try this recipe: Because "Unjunk" contains no recipes, here's one of mine with unique flavor characteristics (saffron and lemon) that's easy to make if you have leftover chicken breast.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.