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Healthy Substitutes: How to Swap Your Junk Foods for Nutritious Choices
By Julie C.H. Brake   View more articles by this author
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December 23

When someone wants to eat healthier, he often tries to stop eating foods he knows are unhealthy.  He tells himself he cannot have the things he wants at all.  This often lasts for a short while before he gives in to what he likes and gives up on eating healthy.  Does this sound like something you have experienced?  Here are twelve common junk food items and comparable healthy choices for substitutes:

  1. Soda.  This is often the easiest item to give up completely because diet soda can substitute.  However, even diet soda should be limited to about 24 ounces daily because of the additives and caffeine content.  Water is the best fluid, but adding a little bit of 100% fruit juice to water can give it flavor.
  2. Chips.  Baked or light chips can substitute, but be careful about the sodium.  Low-fat, low-salt popcorn can give the same salty, crunchy feel while being much more nutritious.  Whole grain crackers can also be a much healthier choice and often have less than half the fat of snack chips.
  3. Ice Cream.  Frozen yogurt is a sweet and easy change from ice cream.  It is not the same, but is delicious if you can find a flavor that you like.  Steer clear of flavors with candy in them, but basic flavors like vanilla or strawberry are often low in fat.  One cup of frozen yogurt is nutritionally equivalent to a cup of milk.
  4. Cookies.  Graham crackers and plain animal crackers are sweet tasting but low in fat.  These can be enjoyed with a glass of milk, too!
  5. Candy bars or chocolate.  Depending on preferences, there are several choices.  Chocolate chip granola bars can work great for those that like chocolate.  Trail mix with nuts, raisins, and a few chocolate chips can trade in for those that like candy with chocolate and nuts.  Yogurt-covered raisins can be an easy substitute for bite-size candies.
  6. Fruity or gummy candies.  Berries or grapes are bite-sized and sweet.  Dried fruits, such as raisins, dried cranberries or dried apricots, are sweet and chewy.
  7. Fried foods.  Try marinating meats to give them flavor before cooking in a healthy way, like baking, broiling, or grilling.  Slicing vegetables and baking them makes them crunchy but avoids the added fat from frying in oil.  Bread crumbs can be used to add crispiness.
  8. Pizza.  Make pizza at home using low-fat cheese.  Add vegetables and grilled chicken as toppings.  This often saves money and is faster than waiting for delivery!
  9. Doughnuts.  Homemade whole grain muffins with fruit can be great-tasting breakfast items to replace doughnuts and pastries.  Basic muffin mixes can be purchased in the store, and chopped fruit can be added.
  10. Sausages.  Turkey sausage and turkey bacon can replace regular breakfast meats.  Using English muffins or toast to make a breakfast sandwich with egg whites, turkey meat, and cheese is a great way to start the day.  Hot dogs and bratwurst are sausages, too.  Look for turkey meat that is low in fat and sodium.  Use peppers and onions to add flavor.
  11. Coffee.  Black coffee, decaffeinated and limited to one to two cups daily, does not interfere with nutrition very much.  Add sugar, cream, milk or syrups, and coffee becomes a source of extra, unnecessary calories.  When ordering cappuccino or lattes, ask for decaf coffee and skim milk.  Try not to add sugar or syrups.
  12. Alcohol.  Whether it’s wine, beer or liquor, alcohol has calories.  Enjoying an occasional adult beverage is okay, but calories can quickly add up if alcohol is consumed too often or in large amounts.  Virgin mixed drinks have sugar but much less calories than those with alcohol.


Keep in mind that allowing yourself to choose “unhealthy” foods occasionally and in small portions is okay.  Trying to completely eliminate any one item from the diet will cause you to want that item even more and eventually overeat it.  Use these healthy substitutes to make better choices most of the time, and enjoy your favorites on special occasions.

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