Let’s be honest; even the healthiest eaters out there want to eat some occasional “junk”! When we think of “junk food” we think of classics like:
- Chocolate (not dark)
- Candy and granola bars
- Ice cream and novelties
- Donuts and muffins
- Fried snacks
Any of these items, which are NOT food, are okay in small, infrequent amounts in a person’s diet, and they can remain healthy. In fact, it may be a good idea to have the occasional dip into junk foods to keep yourself sane and cravings in check! Trying to pretend you won’t ever eat sugars or junk again is not a healthy mindset, but is there ANY way to make it just a bit better???
YES! Try some of the tips below; MAKE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM FOR THE JUNK FOOD FACE-OFF TO SEE WHICH OF YOUR FAV JUNK FOODS WINS!!!
1) DO NOT buy the Family Pack or BULK sizes of your favourite junk!
- Junk food is NOT the thing you want to purchase at your big box discount retailer! Those places are for toilet paper and almonds!
FIX: Purchase your favourite junk in smallest packages possible, individual packs etc. so there is NONE lying around after you eat it!
2) NEVER eat out of the junk package!
- Psychologically, eating out of the package doesn’t define the boundaries of eating enough, tricking our brain into thinking we are eating LESS
- Cut or separate your portion and then put the package away (OUT OF SIGHT) before sitting down to enjoy it.
FIX: Always portion out some of the junk you want to eat into a bowl or plate. Preferably a RED-coloured one, so you eat less of it.
(yes, the colour of your plates and bowls effects how much you eat!)
3) Try to “Nutritionally Wrap” your junk!
- When we eat something junky with a bit of fibre and protein, it can slow-down the absorption, and make us feel fuller as we are enjoying our junk!
FIX: Eat your junk ALONG SIDE a healthier food!
- Add Apple or pear or oranges sliced up beside your chips
- Top your ice cream with a handful of almonds and frozen berries
- Add a side of red pepper strips and hummus to your fried food portion
- Mix in pumpkin and sunflower seeds to your candy portion
- Smear some natural peanut butter on your donut!
4) Stay Hydrated
- Have a ton to drink while enjoying junk food: NOT ALCOHOL
- Though these two may often go together, make sure you are well-hydrated when you are enjoying a treat or your brain can mistake dehydration for hunger, causing you to overeat
- 12 ounces of fluid prior to eating has been shown to kick your appetite hormones into gear, telling your mind you are not too hungry which can be helpful here
FIX: Have a tall (750 ml) water bottle, sparkling or tap water, warm or cold, or teas, especially hot herbal teas to tame that junk food craving.
5) Be Prepared
- Most of us are like a heat-seeking missile when we have a junk food craving, get a step ahead of the craving!
Make a list of “healthier” junk foods to look for when you’re craving:
- Chocolate- go for darker (70% cocoa or more, with no other stuff), instead of a “candy bar” chocolate bar (the main kind you see on shelves)
- Pop- would a carbonated water or kombucha fill that craving?
- Chips- Try high-fibre seed-filled crackers, dried chickpeas or soy nuts for crunch
- Candy- what else could meet your sweet tooth craving? Fresh or small amount of dried fruit?
- Baked goods- Can you make your own? Homemade foods almost always have less sugar than store-bought and you can look for healthier versions
- Could a bowl of high-fibre cereal (which always contains sugar) and “milk” or yogurt FIX this craving???
- Popcorn- Make your own and get creative with the toppings- drizzle healthy oils on top, sprinkle on parmesan, dried herbs, spices, nutritional yeast, etc.
- Flavoured sugar and fat laden coffee drinks- Those flavoured syrups and toppings can add a lot of sugar. Consider asking for half the sweetener, or order a plain coffee and add your own sugar/dairy
6) Be Mindful: Have a Junk Food Mantra!
- Usually when we are eating these foods, there is a tendency to “zone out” or be on auto-pilot which is dangerous!
FIX: Create a saying and repeat it before you eat, to get mindful about the moment. Say to yourself:
“Mmmm, I love this treat, I’m allowed to have it, I will savor and enjoy it and then move on”
- Enjoy it! If you’ve decided to eat something then sit down, distraction-free and enjoy the flavours!
- If possible, enjoy your treat with music on, versus video or screens…really taste and sense the texture
Beware Healthy Junk Food Marketing!!
- Tons of products now claim to be “healthier” junk food, but look at the label first.
- Just because its ORGANIC junk, doesn’t mean it’s a better choice and you can or should eat MORE
- Some products that are made to LOOK like veggies, but are still fried and may have little actual veggies in them- read the ingredient list.
- Watch sodium; it’s one thing we do not need more of as Canadians
- Eating real, whole foods is always the best option over the packaged stuff.
Kid Snacks: Junk vs Alternatives
Kids are especially sensitive to all of the flavours found in junk foods and are heavily targeted when it comes to marketing. Here are some of the most common kid snacks and some healthier alternatives.
My First Bear Paws (1 pouch) vs PC Arrowroot Cookies (5 cookies)
- Bear Paws: 110 calories, 4.5g fat, 4g sugar, 95mg sodium
- Cookies: 150 calories, 5g fat, 5g sugar, 140mg sodium
Potato Chips (1 small bag salted) vs Popcorn (2 cups homemade)
- Chips: 229kcal, 1g sugar, 15g fat, 227mg sodium
- Popcorn: 65kcal, 1g fat, 0 sugar, 1mg sodium
Veggie Snaps (1 serving) vs Frozen Green Peas (½ cup)
- Snap pea crisps: 130kcal, 5g fat, 1g sugar, 75mg sodium
- Peas: 59kcal, 0 fat, 3g sugar, 82mg sodium
PC Organics Toddler Fruit Snacks (1 strips- 11g) vs 2 Medjool Dates or 3 Dried Apricots
- PC: 40kcal, 0 fat, 7g sugar, 0 sodium
- Dates: 132kcal, 0 fat, 16g sugar, 0 sodium
- Apricots: 51kcal, 0g fat, 11g sugar, 2mg sodium
Junk Food Smackdown!
So how do your favourite foods stack up? Here are some comparisons between common snack foods- some of the best choices may surprise you.
1.Honey-glazed Donut vs Blueberry Muffin
- Donut: 190kcal, 11g sugar, 6g fat, 210mg sodium
- Muffin: 428kcal, 36g sugar, 18g fat, 380mg sodium
2. Chocolate Bar (plain) vs Fruit-filled Granola Bars
- Chocolate: 220kcal, 25g sugar, 12g fat, 120mg sodium
- Granola: 370kcal, 14g sugar, 6g fat, 100 mg sodium
WINNER: CHOCOLATE BAR: MORE SATISFYING
3. Fried Chicken Sandwich vs Hamburger
- Chicken: 470kcal, 6g sugar, 27g fat, 650mg sodium
- Burger: 240kcal, 7g sugar, 8g fat, 510mg sodium
WINNER: PLAIN BURGER
4. Regular Spinach & Fruit Smoothie (Booster Juice) vs 500ml bottle of Cola (coke)
- Smoothie: 330kcal, 68g sugar, 0.5g saturated fat, 40mg sodium
- Pop: 200kcal, 55g sugar, 0 fat, 40mg sodium
WINNER: SMOOTHIE….BUT JUST BARELY!!!
5. Cup of novelty ice cream (Regular Oreo Mcflurry) vs Vanilla Ice Cream cone
- Flavoured: 570kcal, 68g sugar, 19g fat, 410mg sodium
- Cone: 240kcal, 30g sugar, 6g fat, 150mg sodium
WINNER: VANILLA ICE CREAM CONE