“Oh, jeepers! That is good! Kids, eat up. Anything that tastes this good has to be good for you.”
So says a mother porcupine to her three children in the DreamWorks animated movie “Over the Hedge.”
And what is this jeepers-inducing food? Store-bought cookies.
“Anything that tastes this good has to be good for you…” If only.
But who doesn’t like to splurge now and again? Who doesn’t have some sort of indulgence – something that comes in a box, bag, or wrapper – that they just can’t resist?
Typically, I prefer healthy foods. Yes, I’m one of those people who scrutinize food labels, searching for words like “hydrogenated oils” and “high fructose corn syrup.”
And most days, I tend to lean toward wholesome snacks, such as grapes, bell pepper slices, or lightly salted almonds.
But there are some days when healthy foods just won’t do.
And this past Tuesday – as National Junk Food Day – was one of those days.
We spend a lot of time thinking about food. “Over the Hedge” has a sequence where the smooth-talking raccoon R.J. summarizes that fact: “We eat to live – these guys live to eat!”
An average day scrolling through Facebook proves that simple statement. I’ve chuckled more than once at posts that read: “My head says exercise, but my heart says taco.”
Or: “Trail mix? Oh, you mean M&Ms with obstacles.”
And this old favorite: “A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.”
After all, there is a lot that can be said about junk food, and most of it – rather rightly – isn’t positive. But, rather than reiterating what everybody already knows, I’ll just briefly say: Enjoy in moderation.
Because, in moderation, junk food sure can be tasty.
French fires are my personal favorite. (And I’m quite happy to say that I celebrated national Junk Food Day with a serving of those salty – but delicious – little rascals.)
Other popular favorites, as we all know, include candy bars, pizza, soda pop, and chips.
But there are other snacks and guilty pleasures that are a bit more obscure.
For example, the social media website BuzzFeed lists several fast food items from across the globe:
• Baby Ruth Chocodilla – Taco Bell, Guatemala (And, yes, that’s Baby Ruth candy bars in a chocolatey quesadilla.)
• Coconut shrimp pizza – Pizza Hut, South Korea (I think I’d actually try this one. Are you listening, Pizza Huts in the U.S.?)
• Chili cheese nuggets – Burger King, Czech Republic
• Dry pork and seaweed donut – Dunkin’ Donuts, China (I feel like that would definitely wake me up in the morning.)
• Green tea Blizzards – Dairy Queen, Thailand
I can’t help but be fascinated at the differences among cultures. And food is one of the easiest ways to showcase that diversity.
But there is another such way: time.
After all, there are some favorites from my childhood that are, sadly, no longer on grocery store shelves. And even though they’ve gone to that big cupboard in the sky, BuzzFeed remembers them in yet another list:
• Wonder Balls (“Oh I wonder, wonder – what’s in a Wonder Ball!” That jingle was stuck in my head for most of my childhood.)
• Squeez-It (juice)
• E-Z Squirt Ketchup (As a kid, the green and purple varieties were so weird you simply couldn’t resist using them.)
• 3D Doritos
• Surge (soda pop)
So, yes, junk food comes in many shapes and sizes. It comes sweet and sour, covered in salt and dipped in chocolate.
And even though junk food might not be our healthiest option, our world would certainly be different without it. Lighter, perhaps, but also a little more boring.
Can you imagine a baseball game without a hotdog? Or a movie without popcorn?
Isn’t a candy bar after a long day nothing short of luxurious? And a pizza shared among friends simply a staple of college life?
And while it doesn’t hurt to reach for an apple or a handful of nuts more often, it also doesn’t hurt to treat ourselves, now and again, to those little bits of processed heaven.
So, yes, practice moderation. Remember to exercise. But, above all, make sure to enjoy. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?
Hmm… strangely enough, I’m now a little hungry. Anyone else craving a candy bar?
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.