The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Have you read this article from the February 20th issue of the New York Times Magazine?  It’s more than a little scary!  The author adapted the article from a book that Random House is just about to publish, and he describes how food companies spend MILLIONS of dollars every year researching what makes foods most mentally and physically satisfying, and how to keep their customers hooked.  I guess what is most scary to me is not necessarily that huge corporations are creating a “science” out of how to make junk food appealing (that really doesn’t surprise me- most successful companies spend incredible amounts of time and money researching what makes their customers come back!), but that the reason it makes sense for these companies to spend millions of dollars on this type of research is because they make BILLIONS of dollars selling junk food every year.  Lunchables are a billion dollar product category for Kraft- a food product that averages over 70 ingredients and has included varieties that contain 76 grams of sugar.  (And by the way- Lunchables are targeted at elementary school age children.)  How have we reached a point where it feels normal to devote such a large percentage of our diets to junk food?  The food giants have made it easy for us to indulge beyond what’s healthy, but consumers are literally eating it up- it’s as if we have completely lost sight of what constitutes a reasonable diet.  The average American eats over ten pounds of potato chips a year!!  Ok, I will stop here- you can read the rest of the article yourself if you choose :)

I’ll confess that although I eat a healthy, whole-foods based vegetarian diet, my junk food addiction is Starbucks.  I spend way too many calories- and dollars!- on soy chai lattes and pumpkin bread.  I’m working on it.  The lattes are easy enough to make at home, and I’ve been eating more steel cut oatmeal and fruit.  But sometimes you just need a muffin!  And this muffin recipe (adapted from Andrew Weil’s True Food) is a good solution on more than one level: it’s easy enough to make, really, really filling, it’s soft and sweet, and it contains no sugar or flour!  They may look like bran muffins, but do not taste like it!  Anything that can keep me away from my junk food-y, 700 calorie Starbucks indulgence is going to stay on my “keepers” list.  Enjoy!

Muffins

Carrot Banana Muffins (adapted from Andrew Weil’s True Food)

Notes:  Although these muffins are very moist, they are still prone to falling apart, so it really helps to use paper liners in your muffin tin.  Almond flour is really just ground almonds, and I usually buy it at Trader Joe’s, or I’ll look for Bob’s Red Mill brand in mainstream grocery stores.

Makes 12 muffins

Total prep time: 15 minutes

Total baking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3 large eggs

3 extra ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cup chopped and pitted dates or raisins

2 medium carrots, shredded (I roughly chopped the carrots by hand, then ground them in my mini-chopper)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, coconut oil and vinegar.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Fold in dates or raisins, carrots, and walnuts.  Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn the muffins onto the rack and let cool to warm or room temperature.

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7 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

  1. I did catch that article in the Times. And, while sadly I wasn’t really surprised by any of it, I was still appalled, nonetheless. It’s a horrible industry and I hope we continue making strides to rail against it! The article was adapted from an upcoming book by the same author – which I’m excited to read. I’ve reserved a copy from my local library when it’s available!

  2. if that article spoke to you, then you should definitely check out, A Place at the Table. a documentary that explains the hunger epidemic in the US. it speaks to many of the things that the “Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” article talked about. very poignant and important film. and your muffins sound awesome!

    • Hi Tina! I calculated this the other day for a friend- I should have posted an update! They are about 275 calories each. It’s not what you would call “low-calorie”, but they are full of so much good stuff (bananas, carrots, nuts), have no added sugar, and I found that they are really filling!

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