Even the healthiest person craves the occasional morsel of junk food. But rather than slipping off the rails of your healthy lifestyle or feeling obliged to doing an extra 20 minutes of cardio, why not replace an unhealthy snack with a healthy one? And if the thought of chowing down rice cakes as a chip replacement makes you want to ingest mass quantities of unhealthy food, do not despair.
There are many ways you can have healthy snacks that still have great taste, crunch when you bite into them, and don’t sacrifice appeal for less calories. This article will offer a list of quick snacks you can make or buy, but won’t have you putting on the pounds or raising your cholesterol level.
The Junk: Soft Drinks or Pop
Ahh the delicious sugary rush of a cold cola. Sometimes you just have to have sacrifice fruit juice for something with more of a snap. But when you think about all those calories and grams of sugar, you might want to reconsider before you open that can of pop or guzzle down that ‘energy’ drink.
1. Fruit Juice & Soda Water
This little gem has been toted by health nuts and concerned moms for years. All you need is juice (100% juice with no additives) and a bottle of soda water. The soda – calorie & sugar free – will give the juice the ‘pop & fizz’ you normally get from soft drinks. A word of caution, don’t mix huge batches of the stuff in advance, since the fizz will go flat fairly quickly. Buy canned soda water instead, and mix your drinks as you need them. Once you find a juice combo you like, try the recipe and make your own popsicles.
2. Iced Tea
Make your own iced tea! Instead of buying the brown water loaded with sugar they sell in stores, whip up a batch of your own iced tea. All you need are tea, lemons and …sugar. You can make the iced tea without sugar, but it may require some sweetener. The advantage is that YOU contol how much goes in and you have the option of using sugar substitutes such as aspertame or splenda. Mix the whole thing with water; boil for five minutes, then let it sit for 15. Add ice & serve.
3. Fruit & Veggie Smoothies
Thanks to the infamous juicer, you can now blend nearly anything into liquid form and make it taste good enough to drink. Of course these are designed to be very healthy, so you may need to experiment before you get a flavor that you like. One trick is to buy one you like from a juice shop, and watch closely as they make it so you can try the same thing yourself at home.
The Junk: Potato Chips
The thought of giving up chips is terrifying to most of us, but there are healthy alternatives that you can grow to love. Chips have three major problems: 1) they are deep fried in oil; 2) they are loaded with salt and/or sugar; 3) they have lots of calories and carbs. If you can eliminate at least two of these negatives, then you have a much healthier snack. Here are some alternatives.
1. Rice Crackers.
Okay, we mentioned these at the beginning as a bad thing, but there are some very tasty, clever versions of the plain rice cracker on the market. Most are flavored, so make sure you check the calorie/salt/sugar totals before you pick one. They are also very crunchy, which will help to trick you into thinking you are eating a chip.
2. Baked Crackers.
Crackers can replace chips, and the ‘baked, not fried’ factor makes a huge difference in the health department. Once again, there are many versions of baked snacks on the market in the cracker family, so check around to find the one you like best, but watch out for all those extras.
3. Healthier Potato Chips
Yes, thanks to demand, chips are being modified to be a healthier snack. Baked chips are now on the market. Although not as crunchy as their deep fried relatives, the elimination of fats is a major health savings. Try using salsa to give them more flavor.
4. Raw Vegetables & Dip
It may sound too good to be true, but having fresh cut veggies handy can ease the urge to have an unhealthy snack. Plus, have them out when you have friends over, rather than a huge bag of chips. Crunchy, tasty and full of vitamins!
The Junk: Chocolate
It’s hard to resist a little chocolate every now and then, but the fact is chocolate is not necessarily a bad thing.
Chocolate gets a bad rap, and it shouldn’t. It is actually good for you, when it isn’t consumed in mass quantities or mass-produced. Real chocolate (cocoa beans) grows on trees, and real ‘chocolatiers’ make a much healthier version than what you get in a candy bar from the local store. The main difference is in freshness, quality ingredients, and no additives. It’s like buying bread right from a baker, versus picking up a loaf of mass-produced white bread at a gas station. Chocolate shops use less sugar than mass-produced chocolates, and you can also buy versions that have no sugar added at all.
The Junk: Popcorn
Nothing beats a bowl or bag of hot buttered popcorn. However, the amount of calories, oil, butter and salt in a bag of popcorn is equivalent to eating two Big Macs. But popcorn can be healthy, if you are willing to sacrifice some of the buttery, salty flavor.
All you need to do is follow a few simple rules. First, air pop all your popcorn from now on. NEVER use microwave popcorn, even if it is quicker and easier to make. Microwave popcorn is loaded with chemicals and oils, and no matter how ‘low-fat’ or ‘low-salt’ is says it is, it is still very unhealthy for you. Second, never use salt on the popcorn. You need to wean yourself from the salty lure of snacks. Salt is a killer and hard on your heart and blood pressure, regardless of your age. Third, switch from butter to margarine, or preferably, use nothing at all. Although ‘dry’ popcorn may sound unappealing, you will get used to the flavor.
It should be said that anything in moderation probably won’t kill you, so if you are not a huge snack eater then you really don’t need to worry. But for those that like to indulge, you will be amazed at how many calories and fats you can eliminate out of your diet by switching a few key junk foods to healthy foods. Just try it and you’ll find that you can still enjoy the crunch without having to worry about your waistline.