Junk Food Swaps: A List of Healthy Substitutes you Didn’t Know About7 minute
Junk food cravings are real. We all have our moments where we want to demolish a fast-food meal in a few minutes or binge on a bag of wafers. Whether it’s stress-eating or binge-eating, junk food addiction is linked to several long-term health risks. As they say “You are what you eat”. Occasionally reaching out to your favourite fat and sugar-laden goodies is fine. However, it only becomes problematic when you rely on these unhealthy foods for prolonged periods. It can result in weight gain, obesity, mood changes and low self-esteem. No matter how much tempting advertisements tend to lure you, you’ve got to devise a strategy to eat healthy. For example, you could ditch those late-night popcorn cravings and opt for makhana (fox nuts) instead.
The thumb rule here is not to stress or deprive yourself. Eating is all about listening to your body. If your body needs energy, reach out for a treat. However, a treat doesn’t necessarily have to be straight out of a can, tin or packet. It can be made/cooked right in your kitchen using the simplest and most basic ingredients.
8 Healthy Snacking Alternatives to Keep Junk Food at Bay
You’ll be surprised to know that there are healthy substitutions for junk food. They’re as tasty as their junk food counterparts but with more nutrition. There is a common myth that you cannot eat healthy without breaking the bank. Well, you can. Don’t believe us? Here are some healthy alternatives to your favourite junk foods:
- Replace Protein Bars with a Homemade Trail Mix
It can be pretty tempting to reach out to a protein bar at the billing counter of a supermarket. Contrary to what these nutty bars claim, they’re full of sugar, sodium, trans fats, saturated fats and artificial flavours. They’re not healthy at all. To kill those mid-evening hunger pangs, prepare your own trail mix instead of reaching out to store-bought health bars.
All you have to do is add a mix of seeds in a jar. It can include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, dried apricots, walnuts or even pine nuts. You could also add a pinch of jaggery for a hint of sweetness. Having a spoonful of this trail mix when your stomach rumbles is a far healthier alternative than consuming sugar-laden protein bars.
- Use Olive Oil instead of Butter
Most of us reach for the olive oil bottle in our kitchen only when we’re making pasta or salad, right? Well, you’ll be surprised to know that olive oil can be used for everyday cooking as well. It’s a healthy butter substitute. The only downside is that it is a bit more expensive than regular sunflower oil. Olive oil has been found to promote healthy bones and a healthy heart. Besides that, it is loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants. The basic rule is to use an equal amount of olive oil for any recipe that calls for regular cooking oil. It can even be used in baking.
The next time you’re craving a buttery sandwich, try grilling it with olive oil. It will still give you that greasy feel but with much fewer calories.
- Substitute Refined Flour with Ragi, Oat, Quinoa, Almond or Wheat Flour
Did you know? All-purpose flour or refined flour is full of calories. We’re not denying that foods made with refined flour are extremely tasty. However, it’s bad for your body with zero nutritional value and leads to excessive weight gain if consumed on a regular basis. Artisan breads, naans, bakery items and cakes are all made with maida. Owing to the current shift in healthier eating choices, there are a lot of alternative flours or low calories flour substitutes you can switch to. It not just breaks the monotony of regular meals but also gives your body the essential nutrients it needs.
If you’re looking for gluten-free options, think almond flour or quinoa flour while if you’re gluten-tolerant, wheat flour is a good option as it is generally available in most Indian households.
If you plan to make pizza from scratch, try ragi flour. It’s tasty, nutritious, gluten-free and full of amino acids, dietary fibres and antioxidants. All you have to do is replace the maida in the recipe with ragi flour.
- Drink Fruit Smoothies and Fresh Fruit Juice instead of Soft Drinks or Canned Juices
Soft drinks, soda and canned fruit juices that claim to have no preservatives do no good to your body. They increase your risk of developing obesity or diabetes. Most of us reach out to these processed drinks during summer when we’re looking to quench our thirst. Instead of these packaged juices, you can make your own smoothie, green juice or fresh fruit juice. Even chilled lime water will do you good.
If you’re looking for a super healthy breakfast smoothie, there is a banana-peanut butter smoothie you’ve got to try. All you need is 100ml milk of your choice, half a banana, a spoonful of peanut butter and some jaggery to sweeten it. Blend all this together and you’ll get the tastiest smoothie ever.
If you’re not a thick shake person, you could also make your own fresh juices at home that have no artificial sweeteners.
- Try Dark Chocolate instead of Milk Chocolate
We’ve already spoken about the benefits of dark chocolate in our energy-giving foods blog. Replacing chocolate with chocolate might not sound healthy. However, real dark chocolate is a healthier option. The sugar and fat percentage are significantly lesser. It is loaded with nutrients that can positively improve mental health and is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Some of the nutrients found include fiber, manganese and copper.
Studies reveal that dark chocolate is not just good for the heart but also improves brain function and alleviates stress. Got period cramps or mood swings? Have a piece of dark chocolate and watch how you start feeling better within a few minutes. It’s therapeutic.
- Replace Ice Cream with Greek Yogurt or Frozen Yogurt
Ice cream might seem smooth, creamy and tasty but it’s full of calories, sugar and artificial flavours. A cup of regular vanilla ice cream contains 275 calories. On the other hand, frozen yogurt has only 200 calories and tastes twice as good. The next time you crave ice cream, go for frozen yogurt or make your own flavoured Greek yogurt. It’s a healthier alternative. It is made of whole milk and contains five times less sugar. Another common mistake you might be making is buying flavoured yogurt available on supermarket shelves. They’re replete with preservatives and artificial flavours. Therefore, give them a miss.
- Oven-baked Sweet Potato Wedges over French Fries
Are you one of them who believes in “fries over guys”? Well, potatoes in any form (mashed, fried, baked) may be your one true love but the reality is that they contain absolutely no nutrition. When drenched in fat, they become even more useless. Of course, it’s tasty but you can’t even imagine what a toll it might be taking on your digestive system. However, if you crave for fries once in a while, you should try sweet potatoes which are way healthier. They’re incredibly high in their vitamin A content, contain more antioxidants and have a low glycemic index which means they won’t make your blood sugar spike.
All you have to do is make strips of sweet potato, brush them with olive oil, season it slightly and bake them. Within a few minutes you’ll have crunchy, crispy sweet potato fries to satisfy your cravings. Not all good things have to be fried. Once you start eating these fries, you’ll never want to have the white potato counterpart again.
- Replace Festive Mithai with Homemade Dry Fruits Ladoo
In most Indian households, the sugar consumption touches an all-time high in the festive season, right? While it may be difficult to move away from the sugary treats, there are guilt-free alternatives too. Instead of serving your guests besan ka ladoo or kaju katli, how about making your own ladoos?
You’ll only need a handful of dates, your favourite nuts, and you’re good to go. Soak figs in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and blend along with dates. Add toasted nuts of your choice and some jaggery to taste. Give it a good mix and shape them as you’d like. You can even roll them in crushed peanuts or desiccated coconut once they’re ready. Store them in an airtight container and munch on them as and when you feel like. They’re super healthy and extremely delicious.
Make healthy eating a lifestyle and you’ll never feel bloated again. These junk food alternatives are easily available in every Indian kitchen. They’re high on nutrition and low on calories. These little substitutions you make in your daily diet will yield promising results in the long run. If you have any such similar healthy substitutions for junk food, we’d love to know them in the comments section below.
You can even follow @poojamakhija on Instagram for similar healthy alternatives and nutrition tips.