Food

5 Healthy Alternatives to Unhealthy Junk Foods

5 Healthy Alternatives to Unhealthy Junk Foods

Do you find yourself reaching for a bag of chips or a box of cookies late at night? Here are five foods you can eat to stop those unhealthy cravings.

We’ve all felt that sudden urge to run to the store and grab a certain snack. It’s usually at an inconvenient time, like after everything is closed or when you’re on a diet.

But unless you’re pregnant, these cravings are confusing. Why, of all the things in the world to eat, are you suddenly dying for pickles and ice cream or other random foods?

The answer might not be as mysterious as you think. When your body is telling you to eat something right now, there’s a physiological reason behind it. Unhealthy cravings are linked to vitamin deficiencies and other scientific factors.

Once you know the “why” behind your desire to down a bag of chips in one sitting, you can replace the urge with something healthier. Put a stop to those unhealthy binges by eating these five foods instead.

1. Nuts

Many experts say that cravings only last 3-5 minutes. If you can find a way to tough them out, you reap the benefits of healthier living.

But that’s the hard part, isn’t it? You want what you want, and you want it now!

One way to do this is to distract your body by snacking on nuts. Because they are full of fats and protein, you’ll feel satisfied, but you won’t be eating junk.

There is one cautionary warning about eating nuts:

Too many of them can be dangerous because they are high in fat and caloric content.

Limit your intake to a handful here and there rather than the whole bag or canister. And always opt for the no-salt version if you’re concerned about blood pressure.

2. Dairy

Cottage cheese, a glass of milk, or a few cubes or slices of your favorite cheese should be just enough to get you past your urge for whatever unhealthy item you’re struggling to avoid.

Dairy items are usually packed full of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. No, that doesn’t mean you can load up on ice cream as your craving substitute. Fill your fridge with these healthier options:

  • A glass of skim or low-fat milk
  • Part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • Yogurt (with little or no fat)
  • A bag of low fat Babybel or another portioned cheese

The important part of snacking on dairy or any other craving killer is to make sure it’s portioned. If you grab a bag of cheese cubes and plan on eating “just a few,” the whole thing might be gone before you realize it!

3. Popcorn

Sometimes our cravings are nothing more than the urge to have something to pop in our mouth and chew. If that’s the case, gum might be enough to curb it. But if you need that harder texture, it’s going to take more than a peppermint stick.

Before you sit down to mindlessly snack on comfort food, ask yourself:

Do you feel the urge to grab a bag of chips and binge your next Netflix show?

If so, swap the chips with lightly buttered popcorn for a healthier snack. Microwave popcorn isn’t the best option, but this treat can be eaten any time if you make it with these tips:

  • Use plain kernels and cook them on the stove or in an air-popper.
  • If you must use oils, stick with extra virgin olive or walnut oil. Canola works but isn’t quite as healthy.
  • When you add butter, measure it into a bowl then melt it. Pour it into the bottom of the container first. Add the popcorn and shake well to cover as much as possible.
  • Use natural seasonings and spices to add flavor. Avoid store-bought, chemical-laden flavoring.

If you make your popcorn right, there’s no reason it can’t be your go-to, guilt-free binge snack.

4. Vegetables

Are you a cruncher? Some people think they are hungry or craving something when they really just need something crunchy to distract them.

If your craving is for something hard that gives you that satisfactory texture, raw vegetables might be what the doctor ordered.

Not everyone loves straight-from-the-garden peppers and cucumbers. You might have to dress yours up a bit, but it’s still a better choice than unhealthy fare.

Looking for a mix of flavors? Try these veggie snack mash-ups:

  • Sliced cucumber and tomatoes sprinkled with feta cheese
  • Raw broccoli or cauliflower dipped in light ranch dressing or lemon juice
  • Carrots or celery with hummus dip
  • Celery with low-carb peanut butter

All of these give you the crisp crunch you’re craving without the unwanted, unhealthy side effects!

5. Fruit

A craving might be a vitamin deficiency you can control with daily supplements and healthy eating.

Other times, your body’s calling out for sugar. While it’s not meant for regular piles of sweets, some systems in the body do need sugar to function.

Sugar is a carbohydrate, which is needed for energy. It’s broken down into protein and fat and stored away or squirreled off to the parts of the body that need it.

Still, don’t get too excited. Studies show you only need between 25 to 35 grams of this ingredient per day. One can of soda has 32 grams alone. Chances are, you’re getting plenty of sugar.

But yearnings for cakes, cookies, and other sweets might mean that you need more, not less, sugar. Put away the Little Debbie and hit the fruit section for lower-guilt selections.

Too much fruit is dangerous because most varieties do have a lot of sugar. However, fruit is full of natural sweeteners that satisfy the body’s need without spiking your insulin or adding extra unhealthy ingredients.

If the ice cream is looking too yummy, you might want to break out the apples or oranges instead.

Conclusion

We’re often told to ignore our cravings until they go away, but this is a dangerous way of building eating habits. Pay attention to what your body is telling you to eat, and then use these tips to swap out the unhealthy options for a better choice!

Author Bio:

Angus Flynn is the business manager of Arte, a community of luxury apartments in Rancho Cucamonga.

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