The term junk food refers to foods which are easy to make and quick to consume. They are zero in nutritional value and often high in fat, salt, sugar, and/or calories. Common junk foods include salted snack foods, fried fast food, and carbonated drinks. Many junk foods also have trans fats. Trans fats behave like saturated fats when they get in the body. They clog up the human arteries and cause plaque to build up contributing to heart disease and stroke symptoms.
The term fast foods generally refers to restaurant foods which are all of the above. We have always had fast foods — the tapris selling “vada-pav,” “kache daboli,” and “chaat” for example.
What’s the difference between these foods and the new wave of chain restaurant fast foods such as McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and pizza hut? Tapri foods do not purposefully add fat, sugar and salt, they do not encourage larger portions and offer sales on their items to get the consumer into their establishments and eat more quantity.
It has been proven that humans are addicted to a combination of foods high in fats, sugar and salt and this keeps us eating more chips, cakes, etc. The multinational food chains are secretly happy about this — it is what had made their companies thrive in the US and now they are expanding in other parts of the world.
The more people eat, the more money food companies make. ‘Supersizing’ was developed by these food chains. By adding more marginal value to the meal — more food for proportionally less money, the consumer thinks they are getting a good deal. They are getting more food for the same money, but what food are they getting — high fat addictive foods with zero nutritional value — and now more of it for less money.
They also entice you with free offers and slick advertising. This increases sales and the Indian taste buds get accustomed to different foods. I was at McDonalds at a highway rest stop and wanted an egg-mcmuffin and coffee (yes, I do eat this at times, although very rarely) The salesperson said that I get a hash brown free as with is a “combo-meal.” I didn’t want the hash brown and she just didn’t understand why I would give up something free. Other people would happily take the hash brown, eat it and like it — what’s not to like in potatoes (they are much more than just potatoes — more in another article about this) that are fried with the perfect amount of spices and covered in a crispy outer covering? This is one of the ways obesity has risen.
I am not advocating tapri foods. They are unhygienic and many times illegal, but generally the raw materials that go into make the foods are not bad. Vada-pav, for example uses real potatoes and besan flour. Chaat has real puffed rice, peanuts and chutneys.
If you are famished on the road and need a quick snack, you could grab fruit, coconut water and roasted channa from the roadside vendors and keep these junky fast foods to a minimum.