Before we explore junk food alternatives, let us define what we mean by junk food. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, junk food is “ food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content; something that is appealing or enjoyable but of little or no real value.” In reality however, junk food is often appealing because it tastes good, is quick to prepare or obtain i.e. you open up a packet or bottle, and it is usually cheap. So with this in mind, let us see if we can offer some alternatives that are enjoyable, tasty, quick and nutritious.
Some chocolate such as milk chocolate or white chocolate is full of sugar and fat, and not much else! Advertising has led us to believe that they are full of energy, which they are, but this provides a short burst of energy followed by a slump as your blood sugar levels plummet a little while afterwards.
A better bet is dark chocolate that contains 70% or higher cocoa solids. Even better is organic dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is not as sweet and can be almost bitter but it is worth swapping to it! You will probably find that a couple of squares is enough to satisfy your chocolate urge instead of the entire slab. Or try some fruit such as strawberries dipped in melted chocolate – this adds nutrients as well as gives you a chocolatey taste.
Remember that a craving for chocolate can indicate low magnesium levels so it is worth checking out how many dark green leafy vegetables you are eating.
These provide sugar, bubbles and in some cases caffeine.
As a substitute for the sugar, the best sweetener to use is Stevia. This is a herb and can be purchased as a liquid or as a powder. It is far sweeter than sugar, so only the tiniest amount is needed to sweeten your drink. Add it to plain soda water with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, or add a shot-glass full of fruit juice or some crushed mint leaves. Fruit juice by itself is not a good option. It contains a high proportion of sugar and no fibre to slow down the absorption of the glucose and fructose into the bloodstream from the intestines.
You could try some herbal teas that have been brewed and allowed to cool. There are some delicious fruity ones around; some of them have a little Stevia already added.
If you want to keep the caffeine, go for green tea – you can drink this iced with some mint added in, or some Stevia.
If you are after a substitute for the sweetness of lollies, try some frozen grapes, or even whole plums that have been frozen.
Good old fruit also provides sweetness as well as a host of other nutrients. Add in a few nuts as the fat content will help to slow down the release of glucose into the blood. Go easy on dried fruit though as this is high in sugar.
What about bliss balls? If you don’t have time to make them yourself, there are a number of variations available in the supermarket. Just check the ingredients – there should be no added sugar or other nasties as the dates that are usually used provide the sweetness.
Potato chips, or corn chips
Not many people can resist these! They are crunchy and salty and yum and moreish – but not very nutritious!
Try some air-popped popcorn using a popcorn machine. Drizzle over a small amount of melted butter (this helps the seasoning to stick to the popcorn) and sprinkle with salt, or a mixture of herbs and spices.
Or make up some kale crisps. You will have to think ahead in order to have these ready when the snack-attack happens, making them less instant!
Rice crackers are a good substitute as they are lower in calories than chips. Look for organic ones, or ones that have low levels of added ingredients. Usually plain salted are best. Add a little feta cheese or hummus, or use a salsa dip.
A craving for salt can indicate a degree of adrenal stress, so bear that in mind as you satisfy your snack cravings.
Everything is good in moderation and that includes nutritious ‘junk’ food. Try practising being mindful as you indulge and you will find that smaller amounts will satisfy your craving.
This article was written by Maxine Steele – Tutor, Level 5 and 7
Merriam-Webster. (2018, April 28). Junk food. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/junk%20food