Your Favorite Junk Foods Just Got a Little Less Unhealthy

Mar 15, 2017 at 4:50 p.m. ET
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We all know that most processed foods are total garbage, at least as far as nourishing our bodies is concerned (just look at this recent study about instant ramen noodles). But facing backlash from consumers and medical experts, it looks like the big food industry is finally starting to make changes to offer healthier products. Does this mean we'll someday be able to snack on junk food, free from terror?

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A recent study of 120 companies by Consumer Goods Forum found that in 2016, big food companies reformulated more than 180,000 products to make them less harmful to your body by removing or reducing unhealthy components like sugar, fat and salt. That's more than double the amount of products that were made healthier in 2015.

Sodium, saturated fats and trans fats were all priorities, but the ingredient that was reduced or removed from the most products was — you guessed it — sugar. Even though we all know our favorite sweets and desserts contain plenty of the sweet stuff, it's also loaded into a lot of products we think of as savory (like tomato sauce and bread); in fact, 74 percent of packaged foods on the market contain some type of sweetener. This can lead us to ingest way more sugar than we think we're eating, resulting in health problems over time.

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That's why it's so refreshing to see companies making a change in their product formulations — even if it is because consumers are becoming better informed and choosing not to buy stuff that's bad for them. From General Mills nixing the artificial colors to Starbucks, Taco Bell and McDonald's switching to cage-free eggs, it proves that when consumers speak up, either by strategically purchasing only products they can stand behind or creating petitions and contacting companies to give them direct feedback, businesses do sometimes actually change.

It'll be interesting to see how far this trend goes, but in the meantime, I'll just keep daydreaming that someday "healthy" and "junk food" don't have to be mutually exclusive terms.

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