The Survey Says
Why do we like junk food so much?
The simple answer is, it’s just so tasty. It’s typically high in things like salt, sugar and fat. They trigger pleasure centers in our brains, making us feel oh-so-yummy-good and making us want to keep eating.
Our brains are relatively big. They require a lot of energy to do their thing so we evolved to love high-energy food.
But of course, none of that is really good for us. We’ll save the issues of consuming junk food for another Top 5 list. For today, we’re admiring those foods that we can’t say “no” to.
A lot of money and strategy goes into designing junk food. The goal is to make it cheap and handy. And despite the fact that it has little to no nutritional value, the goal is to keep you wanting more. ESGI and ThinkFives pulled hundreds of teachers to find out what their favorite junk foods are. Here’s our very un-nutritional but tempting list.
Coming in at #5 is an all-time favorite, popcorn. Why is popcorn so popular?
According to the Smithsonian Institute, a couple of reasons for popcorn’s popularity are its mobility and aroma. Dating back to 1885, the first steam-powered popcorn maker hit the streets. Invented by Charles Cretor, this allowed popcorn to be sold on the streets, at carnivals, at county fairs, or any place where people gathered.
Another reason for its dominance over other snacks is its appealing aroma when popped, something that street vendors use to their advantage when selling popcorn. This, of course, is particularly true in movie theaters, where the smell of fresh popcorn permeates the darkness and breaks down just about everyone’s resistance.
- Nebraska produces the most popcorn in America, around 250 million pounds per year.
- Movie theaters make an estimated 85 percent profit from concession sales, led by popcorn sales..
- January 19th is National Popcorn Day.
- Popcorn can reach up to 3 feet in distance when popping.
- The unpopped popcorn kernels at the bottom of a popcorn bag are called old maids.
Mom: “Let’s order out for dinner. What would you like?”
Every Kid in America: “Pizza.”
Why is pizza so popular in the US? Well, that might be because you can find it in every city and town in America. Pizza became as popular as it did in part because of the sheer number of Italian immigrants: they made up 4 million of the 20 million immigrants who came to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920. With them, they brought their taste buds and pizza-making skills.
Chemists think that one of the reasons why pizza is so popular is because people are drawn to foods that are fatty, sweet, rich and complex. Pizza has all these components. Cheese is fatty, meat toppings tend to be rich and the sauce is sweet. For the rest of us, the answer is much simpler: it just tastes good.
- In the United States, 350 slices are eaten every second, while 40 percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a week.
- 36% of all pizza orders want their pizza topped with pepperoni.
- October has been celebrated as National Pizza Month since 1987.
- Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for pizza delivery in the U.S.
- The first American pizza shop was Lombardi’s in New York City.
Third on our junk food list for teachers is a summer favorite, ice cream. Anyone who’s experienced pangs of hunger and cravings when looking at an ice cream cone can attest that the sugary, creamy treat is near irresistible.
Ice cream became popular throughout the world in the second half of the 20th century after cheap refrigeration became common. There was an explosion of ice cream stores and of flavors and types (31 flavors, anyone?).
According to Lisa Drayer at CNN, maybe it has something to do with the way the coldness hits our mouth on a hot summer day. Or the creaminess of every bite. Or the chunky chocolate chips. Or maybe it’s that the thought of ice cream evokes happy memories of special times. It’s probably all of these.
- The average number of licks to finish a scoop of ice cream is 50.
- The country that consumes the most ice cream is the USA, followed by Australia then Norway.
- The majority of Americans – around 90% have ice cream in their freezers
- The most popular all-time Ben and Jerry’s flavor is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. But in 2021 the favorite flavor was Half-Baked, ice cream with unbaked cookie dough and baked brownie bits.
- Ice cream headaches or “brain freeze” are the results of the nerve endings in the roof of your mouth, sending a message to your brain of the loss of heat.
Why is it impossible to eat only one potato chip?
It’s been a much debated question. One study said that it’s all because of the sound potato chips make. Called the “sonic chip,” they discovered that the crunch sound that inevitably occurs as your teeth crush something crispy is an important part of a food’s desirability factor.
Others say it’s the salt. We crave the salty, starchy taste and it makes it impossible to not eat another.
Whatever the reason, potato chips are one of the most popular junk foods in the US. When did they become so popular? You may already have heard the story of Herman Lay selling potato chips out of the trunk of his car to grocers across the south. By 1938, Lay was so successful that his Lay’s brand chips went into mass production and eventually became the first successfully marketed national brand. Hence, Lay’s Potato Chips.
- Americans eat about 1.85 billion pounds of potato chips, or about 6.6 pounds per person annually.
- There’s more than just “air” in those bags. The bags are also pumped full of nitrogen to keep the chips fresh and unbroken.
- Pringles aren’t potato chips. Less than half is potato and includes wheat starch and other flours.
- Barbeque chips were the first type of flavored potato chip.
- The earliest known potato chip recipe is found in William Kitchiner’s cookbook The Cook’s Oracle, which was published in 1817.
Topping our list of all time teachers’ favorite junk food is chocolate.
According to a 2007 study, letting chocolate dissolve slowly in your mouth produces as big an increase in brain activity and heart rate as a passionate kiss—but the effects of the chocolate last four times longer. In other words, it’s intense and irresistible.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which have been grown and consumed in the Americas for thousands of years. The Maya and the Aztecs made a drink out of cocoa beans called xocolatl, which means “bitter water.” No longer bitter water, visionaries like Milton S. Hersey have created a glossy shine, satisfying snap and smooth texture that melts in your mouth.
For many Americans, it’s the most tempting food of all-time.
- Most cocoa–70 percent–hails from West Africa.
- The Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 cups of cacao a day from a golden chalice.
- Hershey’s makes 70 million Kisses a day.
- Ruth Wakefield sold her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to Nestle in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate.
- Americans buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate during Valentine’s Day.
What junk food do you find most irresistible?