Food + Drink

Popular Junk Food (and its alternatives…)

There’s nothing quite like junk food, is there? All that flavour, all that convenience, all that pleasure – as well as all those calories, all that fat, and all the unhealthiness, of course. It’s a shame that the best tasting food, and the stuff that we crave more than anything, is the kind that is the worst for us. From pizza to burgers to kebabs to good old fish and chips, it’s a sad fact that these delicious foods are high in fat, high in cholesterol, and high in the dreaded calories. They make us feel great when we’re anticipating them, and when we’re eating them, but afterwards all of that junk makes our bodies sluggish and heavy – sometimes literally so.

by Lisamarie Lamb

And yet…they taste so good! It’s just not fair. But what if there was a healthy alternative to your favourite junk food that not only tasted great, but managed to do so without all of the additives and calories? The good news is that these foods exist. The better news is that they are easy to find and can even be made quickly at home.

Take crisps, for example. It’s a staple in many homes, an easy to reach snack when hunger strikes. But all of that grease and badness is not great. Instead of potato crisps, why not try parsnip or sweet potato versions? Just slice the vegetable thinly, pop it onto a baking sheet, and sprinkle with olive oil and a little seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes and you’ve got a delicious, healthy snack on hand. A 40g serving of Kettle Chips, for example, contains 201 calories and 11.5g of fat. The same serving of parsnip crisps contains just 114 calories and only 5.4g of fat.

On a potato theme, chips are great, aren’t they? When they are done right they are crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, and just melt in the mouth. What’s not so great is the unhealthy aspect of the things – all that deep frying is not good for you. So instead of deep frying them, you could make your own oven-baked wedges. Healthy and simple, they still have that lovely fluffy inside and loads of taste. Compared to standard chips, these beauties have 40% fewer calories and 70% less fat.

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Pizza. Who doesn’t love it? As a nation we’ve taken pizza to our hearts – and it’s our hearts that are suffering. To make pizza healthier, use flatbreads as the base. You can still enjoy a variety of toppings (vegetables included!), but with a flatbread you are ridding your meal of around 9g of fat and 100 calories per serving. Plus, by making the pizza yourself, you can involve the whole family, and pizza night suddenly takes on a whole new, much more fun, meaning.

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When it comes to extra sides, onion rings are probably at the top of the table. But they are greasy, packed full of fat, and generally not good for us, even if they do have a vegetable in them. As an alternative, with 75% less fat and 60% fewer calories than the takeaway version, use crushed up croutons (mixed with egg whites and flour) to make the crispy coating, spray them with oil, and bake for 20 minutes. Nice!

For those with a sweet tooth who love candy and lollipops, your teeth and your health can be saved by simply switching to dried fruit. Chewy and delicious, this is a substitute that no one minds making, and it’s a fantastic way to ensure you are getting your five a day. Dried fruits are full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. A bag of boiled sweets is just empty calories and sugar. Which sounds better?

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Although it may take a while to get out of the habit of buying and eating junk food, once you begin to insert alternatives into your diet, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. And don’t forget; your favourite old junk foods will always be there as a treat (you just may not want them anymore)!

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