What Does “Junk Food In Moderation” Mean Really?


How To Eat Junk Food In Moderation

One of the things that confused the hell out of me when I started paying more attention to my diet was the notion:

“You can eat junk food, but you have to eat it in moderation”

Before we get too far, let’s define what I mean by “junk food”. I know there are plenty of you who will argue that there is no such thing as junk food or that you shouldn’t separate food into categories like that. I think this is pretty common among supporters of IIFYM (if-it-fits-your-macros) style diets.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of adopting a much more flexible/lenient diet strategy. However, there is a clear distinction in terms of nutrition between things like lean meats and vegetables and cookies and ice cream.

With that in mind, the question remained: “How much JUNK can I REALLY eat and still maintain a healthy, strong physique?”

Honestly, It’s a question i’m STILL finding the answer to. My hope here is that I can at least start to loosely define this for you, and then you can play around with your diet to find what works for you. So, let’s try and answer the question at hand.

“How much junk CAN I eat?”


In my experience, about 20-25% of your TOTAL calories for a given week can come from absolute junk while still making progress. I’m talking about the GOOD stuff here…..the ice cream, cookies, candy bars, etc. The stuff of dreams, if you will. Obviously this is a pretty large generalization and will be affected by MANY other factors like:

  • Your current training goals. Are you trying to gain weight? If so you can generally afford to be more lenient here. If you’re trying to lose weight or cut fat, yo might have to be more strict
  • The quality of your “good” nutrition. The more HIGH quality foods you eat, the more you can afford to eat absolute junk to fill in the gaps.
  • Your level of activity. Obviously this just relates to calorie expenditure, but in general more active = ability to eat more junk

 Adopting An Effective Diet Strategy

If you structure your diet sensibly, 25% of total calories is actually a lot to work with. For instance, if you know you need to eat about 18,000 calories to lose 1 pound a week….25% of that is FORTY FIVE HUNDRED CALORIES. If you can’t get your junk food fix on 4,500 calories……lord save you.

To put that in perspective, 4,500 calories would get you:

  • 4 pints of ben and jerrys ice cream
  • about 2-3 entire packages of oreos
  • a couple of huge chocolate cakes

 That’s a lot of potential junk food. To shed a bit more light, my typical week would consist of eating a fairly strict diet monday-friday, and then splitting these “junk” calories up over the weekend. Now, do i actually go and eat 4 pints of ben and jerrys at once? No, not usually. But 1 pint in addition to a package of oreos would make for an epic cheat meal.

Like I said, you DO need to experiment with this and see what works for you. Maybe you’re someone who wants to eat junk every day, and that’s totally fine. You’d just be splitting that 20-25% of total weekly calories up throughout the week. Once you start looking at the food you consume in the aggregate instead of day-to-day, a whole world of possibilities opens up!

About the author

I'm an ex-pudgy teenager who discovered fitness and all of the benefits it can bring. I still love food, and i'm on a mission. I want to figure out how to eat an absolutely delicious diet while constantly improving my strength and fitness--and I want to share that with you!
1 Response
  1. Just found your site and have been clicking around. I like the content.

    I too believe in kind of the 80/20 rule for eating. Helps keep the mind right. If you tell yourself you can’t have something it will just drive you crazy wanting it.

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