7 Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Junk Foods
It was reported in 2015 that Americans are now eating many more “healthy foods” than 20 years ago. That is something to be happy about! There are similar trends reported in some other modern westernized nations like the UK and Canada. We have come to realize that the all the indulgences we have been giving ourselves come mealtime are lined to the dramatic rise in chronic health problems like cancer and diabetes, heart disease and obesity, which have accompanied modern food manufacturing processes.
The fact remains, however, that processed food is much more readily available than healthier alternatives. Coupled with massive media campaigns that profess unhealthy food as good for us as well as the addictively delicious chemicals and additives that are placed in highly processed food, it makes it very difficult to choose the right thing to eat, when the wrong thing is so appealing.
In some cases, it is not a lack of desire to eat healthily that leads to bad food choices. Sometimes you simply become overwhelmed by the prevalence and power of junk food. You try to eat smart, but social and marketing influences make it easy to give into addictions created by unhealthy chemicals and additives placed in the junk food and fast food you eat... placed there intentionally to create an unhealthy addiction.
You want to eat healthy. You know what healthy foods are. Unfortunately, years of turning to less than healthy food has tricked your mind and taste buds into believing you simply must eat this highly processed food, which you know is causing you health problems. There is a simple alternative. Slowly begin to make healthy swaps. Don't try to change everything you eat overnight. Pick one or two junk food items you currently eat, and swap them out for healthy, nutritious replacements.
Below I cover 7 popular food items I'm referring to as "junk food" since they have little or no nutritional value, and deliver many toxins, poisons, and harmful additives and chemicals. Even small changes, replacing a few of the following unhealthy foods at a time with healthier choices, can lead to noticeable benefits.
Chips made from kale and your favorite vegetables make an incredibly nutritious alternative to the salty, high calorie chips you love. Kale leaves lightly baked with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, and drizzled with sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, crunch just like potato chips. Then of course, there is the fact that kale delivers at least 10% of 7 different minerals the body needs. Just 1 cup of cooked kale delivers all the vitamin A you need in a day, 71% of your vitamin C allowance, and a whopping 12 times the vitamin K your body requires.
You also receive from 4-9% of your daily recommended allowance of 12 other minerals, vitamins and nutrients, including 4 of the B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can also make potato chip replacements with any of your other favorite vegetables. Slice thin, drizzle, sprinkle with some healthy salt, and bake. This way you get nutrition and an incredibly low number of calories, instead of high calories and no nutrition.
You can also turn to health food stores, and possibly your favorite grocer, for healthy alternatives to traditional chips. The appropriately named LesserEvil puffed potatoes make crunchy chips that come in a variety of flavors. PopChips are popped, rather than baked or fried, which the company says provides better flavor while using half the fat. No preservatives, harmful color additives or fake flavors are used in PopChips. Just remember that when you cook your own chip alternatives at home, with fresh fruits and vegetables, this will always be the smartest and healthiest swap you can make.
Did you know 93% of Americans, according to one poll, eat at least one piece of pizza per month? Americans love their pizza. Far from the only pie eaters, pizza is consistently ranked as one of the favorite "junk food" choices craved by people in modern nations around the world. Unfortunately, that statistic about Americans eating one slice of pizza is misleading. When was the last time you sat down in front of a visually and aromatically tempting pizza pie, took a bite, and then only ate that one slice?
If you have stared down at an empty or nearly empty delivery pizza box late at night and regretted your pizza bingeing, try this. Instead of making a traditional-sized pizza, make pizza bites instead. Slice large zucchinis and eggplants into smaller pizza bases. You can also use large portobello caps instead of pizza dough, and in any of those instances, you immediately make your miniature pizza super-healthy. If you have a finicky army to feed, use ground cauliflower to make your dough, rather than white flour or wheat flour.
With miniature pizzas, decorate them with whatever toppings you enjoy. Kids love that these are small, fun and easy to eat pizza pieces. They freeze well, since they are all vegetables. Make your own tomato sauce at home, so you can create a tasty paste with healthy ingredients. There is truly no end to the healthy pizza dough swaps you can make, as long as you stick with fresh vegetables and your own creative mind. Where it makes sense on this swap list, we will recommend retail and grocery store purchases. As far as frozen pizzas concerned, almost all of them should be avoided.
French fries are not inherently bad for you. It is the process of boiling them in oxidized oil which makes them extremely unhealthy. This fills otherwise healthy potatoes with toxins that can do your body harm, both mentally and physically. One quick way to make your fries healthier is to bake rather than fry them. Shop for your own potatoes, and instead of soaking your spuds in unhealthy oil, drizzle them with organic coconut oil or verified extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Bake them in your oven as opposed to sentencing them to a boiled death in unhealthy oil. To make the process even healthier, trade white potatoes for sweet potatoes, or yams. Peel and slice your sweet potatoes into the desired size and thickness you are looking for. Place in a large bowl, drizzle with organic coconut oil, and toss. Make sure all of the fries receive some oil coating. Sprinkle with the above-mentioned salt, and bake in a 450° preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Cool before serving, and you may just find you prefer these healthier fries to the traditional variety.
If you have never tried pasta made from spaghetti squash, you are in for a treat. There is a very good reason why this squash has the word "spaghetti" attached to it. Inexpensive, incredibly healthy and simple to make, the noodles you get from spaghetti squash look like spaghetti noodles. Instead of the high carb, highly processed egg and bread noodles you are currently eating, usually full of additives, chemical flavorings and other potentially harmful ingredients, you’ll enjoy noodles made from nature.
They are also incredibly simple to harvest. Cut a spaghetti squash lengthwise, right down the middle. Spoon out the seeds and stringy flesh. When you do this for the first time, it will appear you are removing all of the meat of the squash. This is true, but this is what you want to do. Take your two halves of squash and lightly coat the interior with olive oil or coconut oil. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 to 400°F.
After they have cooled, take a fork and rake the interior lengthwise. You will see the flesh of the spaghetti squash naturally creates noodles which mimic traditional spaghetti noodles. Toss with your favorite sauce, vegetables and healthy, lean meat or poultry, and eat as you would regular spaghetti noodles. For much quicker noodles that are easier to make, buy yourself a spiralizer. Find the longest, slim zucchinis you can purchase, and this combination yields a fresh, healthy, nutritious spaghetti noodle swap.
Ice cream comes in a number of flavors, probably numbering in the hundreds or even thousands, so there is something for everyone. Unfortunately, ice cream is not the healthiest food, if it even qualifies as food by true definition. If you are addicted to ice cream, try a healthy frozen yogurt instead.
Steer clear of yogurts with added sugar and other chemical nasties, and make sure you read your food labels. Fat-free, frozen yogurt with no sugar added gets a health boost when you sprinkle in your favorite berries and nuts. Ben & Jerry’s has a line of low-fat, frozen yogurts which use hormone-free milk and fair trade ingredients.
Cakes and some other baked goods are nutritional nightmares. They offer very little in the way of health, and actually turn your health in the other direction. To make your cake recipes healthier, replace 50% of unhealthy oil with applesauce. When replacing sugar, use a 1:1 ratio, cutting back on the amount of milk or some other liquid in your recipe by one-fourth cup for each cup of applesauce.
Experiment with almond and other nut flours rather than white flour. Cut down on your frosting, choosing coconut whipped cream as opposed to traditional frosting and candy toppings. One cup of mashed banana works excellently as a replacement for 1 cup of oil or butter, and you get a wonderful flavor boost. The healthiest cake is no cake at all, but make the above substitutions and swaps, and your cake will be as healthy as possible.
A well-made black bean burger can match a beef burger taste for taste. There are several frozen black bean burgers you can get at your local grocer. While some of these are rather healthy, and a much better alternative to store-bought ground beef whose origins and additives are unknown, the tastiest and healthiest black bean burgers are made at home. For a tasty and nutritious burger, try the following recipe.
1 16 oz can black beans rinsed and drained
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic peeled
1 egg beaten
2/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste
Rinse and drain your black beans. Pat them with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, put in a large bowl and mash them with a fork. In a food chopper or food processor, add your bell peppers, onion and garlic. Strain well, placing between two paper towels if needed to get out as much moisture as possible. Add your black bean mixture and your vegetables, mixing well.
Add cumin, pepper, salt and chili powder to your beaten egg, as well as the breadcrumbs. Once this is mixed well, add to your bean and veggie mix. Mix again, and form into 4 burger patties. Cook on an outdoor grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or bake in an oven at 375 to 400°F on an oiled pan or sheet for 10 minutes each side.
If you insist on eating a healthy frozen black bean burger rather than making your own, try this recommendation. Boca All American Flame Grilled Meatless Burgers deliver a taste that is close to the traditional beef burger, and they can be found at most chain grocery stores.
You can instantly make better food decisions simply by reading ingredient labels. If a food has more than 5 or so ingredients, give it a pass. Start making more food at home. If you must buy frozen, processed, canned or boxed grocery store food, look for healthy clues like "organic", "no sugar added", and "all-natural ingredients". Also, remember that if your food comes from a big brand name, there are undoubtedly healthier choices. If your child is addicted to a food that has a cartoon character associated with it, find a way to make healthier alternatives more attractive.
What healthy alternatives will you choose this week?