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What is 'junk' food?

'Junk' food is food that contains little or no nutritional value, but harmful amounts of salt, fat and sugar.

Some foods, such as cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks, sweets and crisps are high in fat, sugar and salt. They foods are usually low in vitamins, minerals and fibre. While these foods are enjoyable to eat, it is best to only have them occasionally and in small amounts.

If you are having some of these foods, stick to smaller, snack-sized versions. Check the label of similar foods and choose the option that is lower in fat, sugar and salt.

The following examples are about 100 calories:

  • about 4 squares of chocolate (half a bar)
  • 1 small or fun-sized chocolate coated bar
  • 1 bag of lower-fat crisps
  • 1 small cup cake (without icing)
  • 1 plain mini muffin
  • 2 plain biscuits or 1 chocolate biscuit
  • half a can or 200ml of sugary drink
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice-cream
  •  half or 1 cereal bar - check the label for calories
  • 5-6 chips

If you are hungry between meals, try having some healthier snacks such as fresh fruit or a yoghurt instead. This will give you energy and keep you feeling full.

Healthy swaps


Low-fat crisps, rice cakes or popcorn


Fun-sized chocolate bars


Low-fat or plain biscuits

Hot chocolate

Choose low-calorie hot chocolate or cocoa


Oven chips


Low-fat frozen yogurt/ ice-cream/ ice-pops


Low-fat natural yogurt





New healthy eating guidelines for children aged 1 to 4

The red triangle at the top contains food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt and low in vitamins, minerals or fibre. These are not needed for health or for keeping children at a healthy weight.

These foods are not needed for good health or healthy weight and if you decide to give your child these foods offer them in tiny amounts and only once a week.

What is a tiny amount? One of the following:

  • 1 square of chocolate
  • 5 crisps
  • Half a plain biscuit
  • 3 soft sweets

Check out the top shelf fact sheet

Cereals, breads, potatoes, pasta and rice Vegetables, salad and fruit Milk, yogurt and cheese Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts Fats, spreads and oils  | Food high in fat, sugar and salt

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