Ditch the Junk Food...
and Replace it with Quick, Easy, Healthy Snacks!
Junk food has gone from the occasional treat to an everyday food for many of us, and our collective health (not to mention weight) is paying the price.
Australians are having “larger portions of junk food, more often” according to health experts. The availability of convenient snack foods and our busy lives are major contributors to our over-consumption of junk food, but we can make better choices that our bodies will thank us for.
Don’t worry …. The answer to everything isn’t carrot and celery sticks! The idea is to have more of the healthy foods and less of the things not so good for you.
Knowing yourself, and how you react to trying to discipline yourself is really important too. For example, for a lot of people the word ‘diet’ makes them want to eat more now for fear they are going to starve when they start the dreaded diet. It doesn’t matter that the fear is irrational, our brain is trying to preserve our life and it can perceive the word ‘diet’ as a threat, so it reacts by making us want to eat more rather than less.
Don’t think of dieting but of lifestyle choice, healthy choices, nutritious eating, food empowerment – you have the power to make healthy decisions. The word ‘diet’ smacks of deprivation and guilt. In fact, taking the word ‘diet’ out of your vocabulary can be very empowering!
Think in terms of mindful eating and self-care – be aware of what you put in your body and love yourself so you give your body proper nutrition. You are worth it … you deserve to have what is best for you and your body – and the best is healthy, nourishing foods that support you and your body.
Also, for some people it’s easier to give up something entirely rather than have a small amount – for example, it’s easier for some people to never eat chocolate rather than try to have just a tiny bit because once they start eating it, it can be really hard for them to stop.
Know yourself so you can avoid pitfalls and make it easier on yourself to make better choices.
Back to the junk food dilemma....
Common junk foods making us unhealthy - and healthy replacements for each of them
Cakes, biscuits, muffins and donuts
Why they’re not so good:
The serving sizes tend to be enormous – some of the muffins could feed a family of four! Baked goods tend to be full of refined flours, sugars, cooking margarine or suet – they are low in nutrients, and high in kilojoules.
Choose much smaller versions if they are available – a mini-muffin or mini-donut will allow you to have a treat without the guilt and as many empty calories as the full-size version.
Bliss balls are a great substitute, especially if you have a sweet tooth - they are packed with protein, flavour and goodness. Check out the fabulous recipe at the end of this blog. Make a big batch and refrigerate so you have these fantastic little weapons against temptation on hand.
Try some low GI dense grainy bread and top it with some chopped banana with cinnamon or enjoy a slice of toasted fruit bread for a mildly sweet fix.
Why they're not so good:
Alcohol contains lots of kilojoules, but no beneficial nutrients, vitamins or minerals. If you’re not controlling how much you drink, you risk damage to your health (and probably to your relationships but that’s another story).
You may not need to cut out alcohol completely –just restrict your intake.
When drinking, alternate an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water – your liver and kidney will thank you.
Have the occasional glass of wine with dinner but try not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach as it can make you feel like snacking.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks that taste great and look festive – mocktails are delicious and the only thing you will be missing out on is a hangover.
Pastries – pies, sausage rolls, pasties, turnovers, Danishes
Why they’re not so good:
Pastries are kilojoule dense and very high in unhealthy saturated fats. They offer little in terms of quality nutrition, but that fat has a nice mouthfeel that makes us want to eat more.
What to eat instead:
Eat some form of protein with your main meals to keep you less hungry and less likely to be tempted by pastries. If you have ducked into a bakery to grab a meal on the go, consider a salad roll or sandwich instead (with ham, chicken, egg or cheese for protein).
‘Health foods’ – sports bars, muesli bars, fruit bars and breakfast cereal bars
Why they’re not so good:
Don’t be fooled by their wholesome packaging – fruit, grain and nut bars are often loaded with sugar and kilojoules.
Eat a piece of fresh fruit, or a small handful of dried fruit. A few nuts will give a ‘crunch’ and some protein that helps quiet cravings.
Bliss balls are just as convenient and much healthier. Google up all the different flavours you can make – they are quick, healthy and taste great.
Why it's not so good:
Your typical bar of chocolate is loaded with fat and refined sugars - while a few squares won’t harm you, it’s often hard to stop right there.
Try these instead:
Look for a good quality dark chocolate – preferably a minimum of 75% cocoa where the antioxidant level is higher, and the sugar content is lower. Take the time to savour every bite and eat slowly. Keep it to 3-4 squares though, no matter if it is healthier!
Fresh dates often satisfy the craving for chocolate – they are sweet and have a gorgeous texture and flavour. Keep some in your fridge for emergencies!
Why they’re not so good:
Most packaged chips offer little nutrient value and are high in kilojoules and salt and are hard to stop eating. Sadly, some veggie chips are no better – read the package carefully.
What to eat instead:
Freeze dried fruits and vegetables for example broccoli, beans etc, still have that crunch we are looking for but without the high amount of saturated fats.
Air-popped popcorn can be sweet or savoury – just go easy on any unhealthy toppings. It’s cheap (Kmart sells popping machines for $10-20) and popping corn costs little – plus it’s high in fibre which helps you feel full.
Nuts too are a healthier option. Try a small handful of toasted but unsalted nuts for a satisfying snack.
Why It's not so good:
Heavy in fat and sugar, with a luxurious texture, ice cream is one of the biggest snack bombs, especially combined with chocolate or biscuit toppings or rich syrups.
Swap it for:
Banana Nice Cream is a surprisingly satisfying substitute. Keep a few ripe to over ripe bananas, peeled and chopped, in the freezer ready for this lovely dessert. Using a stick mixer, simply whip up the frozen banana with a few drops of vanilla extract and a tiny splash of milk (plant-based milk is good too), and serve immediately – the whole family will love it. Even people who don’t like the taste of ripe bananas enjoy this healthy treat.
Another alternative for when you want the creaminess of ice cream without the sugar and bad fats is to have a good quality Greek yoghurt. Add some crushed nuts if you want the extra crunch and fruit for extra sweetness.
Bite-size Tips on Healthy Snacking
PLAN AHEAD AND KEEP TRACK
Think about the coming week and know when temptations will arise. For example, if donuts are your downfall include snack alternatives such as Bliss Balls in your meal prep and planning so you’re ready to resist temptation.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
Hide the naughty snacks away and only bring them out for special celebrations. Don’t walk down the chocolate and chip aisles of the supermarket.
EAT MINDFULLY, AND ENJOY YOUR FOOD
Try to make time to eat properly rather than rush around. Sit down and think about what you are eating. Enjoy every mouthful and meditate on the good that it is doing your body, mind and spirit.
MAKE HEALTHY FOOD LOOK ENTICING
We eat with our eyes so arrange a nourishing fruit and vegetable platter beautifully, so it looks enticing. Poke bowls are another example of healthy eating made easier because it’s gorgeous and colourful.
HAVE HEALTHY SNACKS ON HAND
Have your favourite nutritious snacks ready to eat so you are less tempted to grab an unhealthy snack.
Edamame, popcorn, vegetable crisps ie snap frozen, hummus, beef jerky, yoghurt, fruit, kale chips, hard-boiled egg, carrot sticks, celery sticks etc with dressing are examples of healthy snack foods to keep on hand.
As mentioned, Bliss Balls are a great alternative to many sweet snacks – they are delicious, filling and satisfying. Google will help you find lots of great recipes – the following is a scrumptious example.
Lemon Cheesecake Bliss Balls
from the CSIRO Total Well-being Diet
1 /2 cup desiccated coconut, plus an extra tbsp for coating
1 /2 cup almond meal
125g light cream cheese
Juice and zest of 1 /2 a lemon
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients well. Once well combined, use clean damp hands to roll the mix into six evenly sized bliss balls. Sprinkle extra coconut on a plate or sheet of baking paper. Lightly roll balls in coconut to coat.
Place on a plate or tray, refrigerate for at least twenty minutes before serving to firm them up. These balls also make a cooling summer treat when frozen.
No more excuses! Do yourself a favour and enjoy these tasty, healthy options while ditching the junk. Your whole body and being will be grateful. And for even more support, check out my blog 'Kick Cravings to the Curb'.