When life gets busy or stressful it is so easy to fall into the convenience and comfort of junk food even though we know it’s bad for us.
“Consistently eating a diet high in processed ‘junk’ foods and low in nutrient-rich foods has been shown to increase risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, depression, digestive disorders, and mortality,” Medi-Share Registered Dietitian Megan Moore said.
However, there is a way to avoid the junk and still feel like you have a little comfort in your food. Check out these 5 Junk food swaps and feel good while you snack!
1. Fruit snacks
Are they fruit or are they candy? Some may have fruit juice in them, but most are primarily sugar and made of a gummy texture that sticks to your teeth. My daughter loved these until she started having issues with her teeth and these were the culprit. Try dried fruit like dried apples or apricots. The sugar content is higher in dried fruit than fresh fruit, but dried fruit will still give you some nutrients while feeling like a treat. Fruit leather is another good option that comes packaged.
As a child, getting your own can of soda at a party was a rare and special treat. Now soda, pop, cola, or whatever you call it, seems to be abundant and always available. The bubbles help to open your senses in a satisfying way, but be cautious of the 150 calories and 39g of sugar the average can contains. Instead, try sparkling or fruit-infused water. Either add lemon or fruit to your own water bottle or buy a flavored version. When buying sparkling water it is still a good idea to check those sugars – specifically artificial sugars. I recommend a naturally flavored version like zero-calorie LaCroix. For a fun twist try SANPELLEGRINO Momenti, an Italian sparkling drink with real fruit juice. This drink will give you just 35 calories and 7 grams of sugar, but feels like a sophisticated treat.
3. Ice cream and Milkshakes
Ice cream and milkshakes have been a part of family outings and gatherings forever. There is a time and place where the experience of going out for these things with a group creates a special experience. However, I would challenge you to think outside the box when consuming these things at home. Making a smoothie or fruit-based ice cream at home can boost your nutrient content while still providing a chilly treat.
4. Candy Bars
A great alternative to a packaged candy bar are energy balls. These are homemade but easy to make. Once made, they are easy to grab which will make them a good choice when you are looking for a quick convenient snack. You feel so much better after eating a couple of these over a packaged candy bar. They are most commonly made with peanut butter and chocolate chips, but you can get creative! You can add sprinkles and pea protein or mix in dried fruit. Just keep the ingredients whole for a true energy ball.
My kids love going to the local donut shop and I admit to occasionally using that as a bribe to get them out the door on time to church. Sundays are our family’s “cheat day,” but I try to make healthier alternatives to our Sunday treats. The average donuts will cost you 250 to 550 calories and 15 to 30 grams of sugar. This much sugar in a small package makes donuts very low in nutrient density and causes our bodies to pump out loads of insulin. Remember, sugar spikes lead to sugar crashes. Instead, make homemade donuts or baked bread with whole ingredients. For the true donut shape consider purchasing a donut pan and bake your own wholesome donuts.
Junk foods come in many forms. I encourage you to consider what foods cause havoc on your diet and research some healthy alternatives. Ask yourself if you gravitate to junk food because of convenience or cravings. This information will help you find alternatives that still meet that need.
The occasional junk food item isn’t going to kill you, but moderation is important. Remember, it’s what you do most of the time that will make the biggest impact. Creating a habit of having healthier snacks available will make a big impact on your overall health, energy levels, and self-esteem.
Debbie Ryan is a Public Relations Specialist with Medi-Share. In addition to being a wife and mom, Debbie is passionate about health and wellness, and encourages others in healthy living every chance she gets.