We’ve always been taught since early childhood that junk foods are exactly that – junk. But what’s great about advances in food technology and awareness is that nowadays you have options when it comes to satisfying those food cravings.
Says Nutritionist Karina Heinrich, founder of The Karina Method, “Food cravings, especially for the unhealthy junk foodstuff, are real and powerful. But instead of fighting your craving, just feed it with a healthier version. There are many brands that are redefining the junk food scene, making needed strides with real ingredient innovation, so what we traditionally think of as ‘junk food’ can now actually be considered healthy.”
Provided you choose the right ones, you can enjoy that snack without needing to feel guilty about it!
1 – Ramen
Ditch the traditional ones that have MSG and high sodium. Instead, opt for healthier options. “Not too many brands replace this college-age favorite, but I do like Lotus Foods,” Heinrich said. “Need to prepare the original style as a healthy meal? Add frozen veggies, eggs, skip the seasoning packet and instead sprinkle your own sea salt, miso or low-sodium soy sauce.”
2 – Tortilla chips
Says Heinrich, “Lots of chip brands are getting on the healthy bandwagon and coming out with chips that are made from high-fiber ingredients, often high-protein beans and other good-for-you whole grains.Some are even made from kale, seaweed, and other greens, versus just your traditional potato.
Beanitos bean chips taste like tortilla chips minus the junk food ingredients and are perfect for dipping into delicious guacamole.Siete Foods Grain Free Tortilla Chips is another great option that even has a nacho flavor. You may possibly never eat another greasy chip again.
3 – Dang coconut chips
This is actually a brand rather than a category of food but they’re a healthy way to satisfy your sweet-salty craving. “They have some fat and fiber, which help you to eat them in moderation,” Samuels said. “They also make some great salty-sweet options, if you like that combo.”
4 – Dark chocolate
This one is more well-known. As long as you avoid the ones with high sugar content (look for those with 70 percent cacao content or higher), chocolate is quite healthy.
“On top of usually being lower sugar, dark chocolate actually has a decent amount of fiber and protein, and it’s so intense that it’s hard to overeat,” nutritionist Tamar Samuels said.
5 – Healthier potato chips
According to Heinrich, not all potato chips are created equal. “You can certainly get your chip fix without ingesting all of the harmful diet disasters that come along with it,” she suggested. “Make sure to always choose chip brands that do not contain MSG, which is a common additive in chips and is linked with headaches, allergic reactions, and obesity. Kettle Brand chips are a great clean ingredient option.”
6 – Gummy snacks
No, Sour Patch Kids still isn’t good for you. However, there are healthier versions.
“Some of my family favorite brands are Black Forest Organic, Newman’s Own Organics, and Surf Sweets,” Heinrich said. They’re just as delicious but with organic ingredients that are GMO-free.
7 – Ice cream
This delectable treat actually has some good nutrients such as calcium and protein as long as you don’t overdo it.
Heinrich says, “Adonia by Ciao Bella and Enlightened are great options, as well as frozen Greek yogurt bars by Yasso. Remember, though, one and done!”
8 – Popcorn
Forget the traditional microwave popcorn in favor of the healthier versions.
“Try any kind of herb spiced popcorn, like this one from Trader Joe’s. It’s very crunchy and filled with fiber,” says nutritionist Maya Feller.
Other healthy options include Skinny Pop, Buddha Bowl Himalayan Pink Organic Popcorn and Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Lightly Sweet Kettle Corn.
When all is said and done, the occasional “bad” junk food fix isn’t always so bad. “There’s something to be said about mindful eating,” Samuels explains. “If you do have a craving, sometimes it is best to honor it. Don’t eat the whole bag. Instead, serve yourself and put a portion of the snack you want on a plate or in a bowl so you can be more intentional about portion size and more mindful about how much you need to feel satisfied.”
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