Junk food junkies: A national day of celebration of our unhealthy obsessions | Food and Cooking

Tim Cain

“In the daytime I’m Mr. Natural, just as healthy as I can be

But at night I’m a junk food junkie, good Lord have pity on me”

— Larry Groce, “Junk Food Junkie” (1976)

What an unfair and pejorative classification for sustainability that makes life worth living.

Seriously – can you imagine what your life would be like right now without the Frito-Lay company, or Nabisco, or Mars Incorporated?

Give us Milky Way candy bars, or give us something else that features chocolate!

Now, these tasty, chemical-laden, unhealthy treats might appall our ancestors, and they’re certainly a root cause of an epidemic of obesity. They’re an obvious yet classic example of how much of a good (-tasting) thing can be way too much.

We love these foods to the point that our decisions can divide us. Last year, career-searching service Zippia.com put out a piece listing the top junk food choice of each state in the country. They used Google search trends and left out gum and liquids. (A choice, not an evaluation.)

Predictably enough, a section of internet users lost their minds, and Illinois was often spotlighted as a state that maybe had it wrong.

Thursday, July 21 is National Junk Food Day. Here are some of our favorites:



When Zippia declared SkinnyPop as Illinois’ favorite junk food, the reaction was swift and derisive. Illinois was mocked and its own residents questioned this relatively “healthy” selection. Somehow, South Dakota and Wyoming – whose favorite treat is sunflower seeds – were left alone. Illinoisans have a reason to embrace SkinnyPop. The dairy-free popcorn was founded in 2010 in Skokie by Andy Friedman and Pam Netzky. Its original pre-popped popcorn was launched in 2010 and was made with sunflower oil and salt. Different flavors were later introduced.



The favorite junk food of our neighbors in Iowa and Indiana. Research on the creation began in 1956 to address customer complaints about air in chip bags and chips being stale or greasy. After a number of false starts, Pringles was launched in Indiana in 1968 and was available nationwide by 1975. Known initially as Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips, snack manufacturers objected, saying Pringles failed to meet the definition of a potato “chip” since they were made from a potato-based dough rather than being sliced ​​from potatoes like “real” potato chips. The company eventually renamed the product potato “crisps.”



Introduced by Nabisco in 1912, it has been the best-selling cookie in the world since 2014. Assorted shapes, tastes and colors have been a recent trademark for the product. In January 2006, Nabisco replaced the trans fat in the Oreo cookie with non-hydrogenated vegetable oil, and that ought to count for something. Oreo is the top snack pick in five states.



Started in 1932, by 1947, the company had licensed franchises nationwide. While tortilla chips are made from cornmeal and use the nixtamalization process, Fritos are deep-fried extruded whole cornmeal. Frito means “fried” in Spanish. There are more than a dozen discontinued versions of Fritos. A favorite in Delaware, Kentucky and Nebraska.


Wisconsin’s favorite snack is a caramel shortbread chocolate bar first produced in the United Kingdom in 1967, and introduced in the United States in 1979. No, there are not separate factories for right and left sides of the two-bar packages.


Named after a favorite horse of the Mars candy-making family, Snickers features chocolate, and nougat topped with caramel and peanuts. The annual global sales of Snickers were $2 billion as of 2004. Deep-fried versions of the bars became a fair food staple at the start of the 21st century. Protests emerged earlier this year when a rumour, denied by the company, said the style of the bar’s distinctive chocolate covering was changing. It’s Minnesota’s favorite junk food.

Milky Way

South Dakota’s favorite confection is made of nougat, topped with caramel and covered with milk chocolate. It was created in 1923 and originally manufactured in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the name and taste derived from a then-popular milkshake, not after the astronomical galaxy.

SourPatch Kids

They’re the pick in Michigan and Oklahoma. They’re soft candy with a coating of invert sugar and sour sugar (a combination of citric acid, tartaric acid, and sugar). Launched in the 1970s as Mars Men, they re-branded to capitalize on the popularity of Cabbage Patch Kids.

star burst

The snack of choice in North Carolina and Ohio was introduced in 1960 in the United Kingdom and was originally known as Opal Fruits. They’re a box-shaped, fruit-flavored soft taffy candy. Introduced in the US in 1967, the original flavors are strawberry, lemon, orange, and lime.



cosmic brownies

Frosted brownies with rainbow candy-coated chocolate chips, these are the favorite in Colorado. Little Debbie said in September 1999 that it created the snack because of the blacklight cosmic bowling trend.


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