There is sadly no getting around the fact that fast food, chips, and sweets are not very good for you. They are loaded with salt, sugar, and saturated fats which overwhelm any essential nutrients that may have been in the food in its whole form.
But boy, do those foods taste good! So rather than deprive yourself entirely, we are taking a look at some surprising methods of eating unhealthy food in a better, healthier way.
Make a Swap
Many of our favorite junk foods can be substituted for other items that are healthier but still satisfying. When we crave chips, it’s usually for the salty crunch.
Try baked chips, popcorn, nuts, or even carrot sticks with a little onion dip. To satisfy a sweet tooth, baked goodies can often be made with fruit (especially applesauce) instead of sugar.
Try mixing semi-sweet chocolate chips, salted peanuts, and raisins for a trail mix that hits both the sweet and salty craving at once, while also providing vitamins and healthy fats.
Make It at Home
Homemade versions of our favorite junk food treats can be just as satisfying with a lot less of the bad stuff. Take French fries, for example.
A baked version is just as crispy and delicious but saves a lot of trans fats and allows you to control the level of salt added. And for the main course, cook up some hamburgers using meat with the lowest amount of fat available, usually 10%.
You can keep the burgers moist by mixing in some tomato sauce or pureed veggies before cooking.
Trim Meat Before Cooking
Red meat is very craveable but contains a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol which contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease.
To enjoy red meat in a healthier way, can choose leaner cuts of meat at the store, and when preparing them, further trim any visible fat before cooking.
White meat chicken, on the other hand, is a healthy choice overall and is so versatile that it pairs well with almost any flavor. However, it’s vital to remove the skin before cooking in order to reduce fat content.
Change the Preparation Method
Foods that are baked are always lower in fat than foods that are fried. Allow the fat to drip away by cooking on a grill pan, or in the oven on wire racks resting on a baking sheet.
Another great option is braising, where you cook foods in a liquid of some kind, usually flavorful stock. No added cooking oils are necessary, and the end product comes out tender and juicy.
When you want that salty snack, make your popcorn in an air popper instead of in hot oil.
Get Creative with Herbs and Spices
We rely a lot on salt to boost the flavors we love, but there are tons of delicious spices that can do the job with almost no calories or sodium.
Play around with flavors like garlic, oregano, paprika, cumin, curry, nutmeg, rosemary, or dill to pump up the taste of your food without also upping your blood pressure.
In fact, many herbs and spices are known to have especially healthful components that serve as powerful anti-oxidants while delivering rich doses of critical vitamins and minerals.
Splurge in Moderation
Studies show that completely depriving ourselves of foods that we crave can increase stress levels and lead to a binge later on when our resolve cracks.
So rather than try to teetotal, eat a healthy meal before splurging and you’ll eat less junk overall.
You can also portion out the recommended serving size of chips or candies and then put the bag away, rather than mindlessly eating from it.
Another good option is to go ahead and get the fast food burger, but eat a salad on the side instead of fries, and skip the soda.
Give Yourself a Break
And finally, understand that we all go overboard sometimes. Everyone overeats on occasion.
Rather than beat yourself up about it, just get back on track the next day. Add an extra 20 minutes to your workout routine if you really feel like punishing yourself, but let go of any shame. Feeling badly about yourself can actually lead to further binges.
With a few little changes, and the willingness to settle for less of the bad stuff, we can still enjoy junk food from time to time.
Better yet, with practice and some creativity, a lot of unhealthy food can undergo a transformation that makes it downright healthy without sacrificing any of the good taste.