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Healthy Swaps for Junk Food
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Healthy Swaps for Junk Food

General Health


Charlotte Pearse

Want to eat healthier but can’t figure out replacements for your favorite snacks? Here are some alternatives to junk foods that are much better for you.

Eating healthy is very important, but it can be hard to find healthy foods that taste good, since there are so many unhealthy snacks out there. It can be especially difficult to switch to eating healthy when it may mean missing out on some of your favorite foods, even if they aren’t very good for you.

Sticking to healthy foods shouldn’t mean that you have to compromise on flavor, but there’s definitely more unhealthy options in grocery stores and restaurants than the opposite. Snack foods and desserts, especially, can have a lot of highly-processed ingredients or a massive amount of sugar that you could definitely do without.

If you’re worried about abandoning junk food altogether, fear not! Knowing some healthy alternatives will definitely make the process of switching easier on you. Here’s why it’s best for you to avoid junk food, and some great, healthier options you might want to try instead.

Why is Junk Food so Bad for You?

So, what is junk food and why is it so bad for you? Well, it’s a very loose term that can basically refer to any type of food that your body would be better off without— usually processed foods. More specifically, junk foods often contain high-quantities of salt, sugar, calories, and/or fat, and next-to-no actual nutrients.

The terms “junk food” and “fast food” are often used interchangeably, and though a lot of fast food is junk food— say, a burger and fries at a grab-and-go restaurant —the reverse is not also true.

“Junk food” refers to far more than meals served at fast food restaurants, though the grab-and-go idea definitely gives junk food a lot of its appeal. Fast food restaurants, especially recently, have begun to offer more healthy options, and junk food is present in every grocery store.

It’s important to be aware of junk food on the commercial side of things as well, not just when dining out. Eating too much junk food means a high intake of excess fat, simple carbohydrates, and processed sugars, none of which are good for you. 

Consuming foods with these qualities increases risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other major health concerns— even cancer. Additionally, junk food has been suggested to have the same effect on the brain as addictive drugs, so it can be difficult to stop eating them once you’ve started doing so a lot.​​

An image of someone wearing a mask and gloves looking at the ingredients label of a container on a shelf at a grocery store.
It is absolutely vital to always read the labels of what you’re purchasing at the grocery store— even if the food item appears to be perfectly healthy. Knowing the ingredients make a big difference towards what does and doesn’t count as junk food is important, and you should always keep an eye out for processed ingredients and high counts for calories and fats so you can avoid purchasing those foods.

This is why it’s so important to be aware of the red flags junk foods contain on their labels. Trans fats, refined rather than whole grains, salt, and high fructose corn syrup are big indicators— especially the corn syrup. Any type of corn sweetener is highly processed and something you’d be better off avoiding in favor of more natural sweeteners.

Though consuming junk food in moderation if you are healthy is not a bad thing, junk food can exacerbate existing health problems and create new ones. If you wish to lose weight, eliminating junk food from your diet is a great way to help. 

Junk food is not a necessary part of any diet as it contributes little to no nutrients, and in fact it seems that it is replacing more nutritious, healthy foods in our diets. If you are consuming junk food more than anything else, that can be a big problem.

If you’re trying to figure out whether something you’re about to buy or try is junk food, there are ways to figure it out. Look at the calorie count per serving, the nutrients that come with that number, and the ingredients label. You’ll want to eat fresh food made out of high quality ingredients to stay healthy.

Eliminating junk foods from your pantry can be difficult, especially at the start, but it’ll be easier on you if you know some healthy, no-less tasty alternatives that you can stock up on at the grocery store.

What Can You Try Instead?

Everyone’s go-to healthy foods are fruits and vegetables, and so those are a great place to start. Order or make yourself salads, even a fruit salad if you’re not the biggest vegetable fan.

However, they can also make great snacks! Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, have some vegetables with hummus or apples and peanut butter. Fruit and nut butters in general are a great combination because they’re healthy yet still taste great— perfect for when your sweet tooth is giving you cravings. 

Nut butters are also a great source of protein, just like nuts themselves. Nuts such as almonds and pistachios are easy to snack on, and filling. A mix of seeds and nuts is a great way to replace junk food snacks.

A more direct replacement for chips are crispbreads, which deliver that classic crunch that a lot of people are missing when they put the chips, pretzels, and popcorn behind them. Additionally, cream cheese is a great idea as an alternative to less healthy dips. Lentil chips are another option available to you.

For more savory snacks, air-popped popcorn as opposed to movie theater popcorn is always a good choice, and beef jerky is a great snack that’s deceptively healthy.

Another good idea is to air-fry your fries— or even air-fry zucchini —instead of purchasing frozen french fries. One of the easiest ways to eat healthy is to make your own meals, so you should take the initiative to look up recipes and try new things to get the ball rolling.

An image of someone holding a plate of pasta. Cooked pasta is covered in sauce on the plate, and uncooked pasta, sliced tomatoes, a pot and other ingredients are also visible in the background.
If you’re truly looking to eat less junk food— or even eliminate it from your diet entirely —the perfect way to balance it out is by making more home-cooked meals! The more self-sufficient you become in the kitchen, the less processed ingredients are likely to make their way onto your shelves and into your cabinets. Looking into healthy recipes is a must.

You can also order (or make!) sweet potato fries or sweet potato nachos as an alternative to the regular, less healthy version. And never forget how much beverages can impact your calorie and sugar intake— try water or sparkling water instead of soda.

On the sweeter side of things, you can also make your own ice cream and smoothies! Using fruit and other naturally sweet food will mean you don’t have to contend with the added sugars present in a lot of junk food desserts. Banana ice cream, for example, is a great flavor that’s healthier than chocolate, for example.

If you go the cooking route, there are plenty of homemade healthy snack recipes available to you. When craving something sweet, opt for no-bake cookies— they work as a dessert or a breakfast, and often include nuts, oats, nut butter, and honey as a sweetener.

You can pick the specific things you use so it tastes how you like it! And if you want to bake cookies, go with oatmeal or nut butter. They’re much better for you than all that sugar. And you can use oatmeal for far more than cookies, too! It make a great healthy base for pancakes.

And speaking of modifying foods to fit your specific taste buds, you should always buy plain yogurt. Flavored yogurt frequently includes added sugars, but if you buy plain yogurt you can add berries, nuts, and granola to it as needed in order to add a specific flavor. Granola in and of itself is a great base for any healthy meal.

Rice cakes and muffins— such as blueberry or banana —are also great healthy dessert alternatives. Chocolate chip muffins are less healthy, but still preferable to cupcakes as a bite-sized dessert, and all of these recipes would also make a great start to your day.

If you’re a big chocolate fan, however, all hope is not lost. While you should stay away from chocolate candy bars as much as possible, maybe try a chocolate protein shake! Not only will the flavor still be there, but it will also be good for you.

And instead of candy bars in general, nutrition bars are a great choice. They’re the perfect healthy snack to tide you over between meals, and there are many different options to choose from.

Our Suggestion

A great healthy snack to use as a swap for junk food are our recently rereleased— new and improved —Simple Botanics Squares! Sold in boxes of 12 for just $23.99, these Simple Squares come in Honey Nut and Chocolate Chip Honey Nut flavors.

Like all good snacks, these are very portable. They’re individually packaged, and it would be perfect to have the box in your pantry so you can grab one whenever you need a healthy snack on the go. Simple Squares are definitely a great healthy choice to replace the junk foods in your pantry.

Each individual bar of either flavor is only 190 calories, with 13 grams of total fat— 0 grams of trans fats —and 6 total grams of sugar.​​

A close up image of both flavors of Simple Botanics Squares on a wooden table. Pieces of the squares, nuts, and chocolate chips are scattered around the two.
If you want to fill up the shelves of your pantry with some great grab-and-go snacks that are a healthy alternative to junk food, Simple Botanics Squares are a great choice. While cooking can help a lot when it comes to eating healthy, it’s still necessary to have some snacks on hand for when there isn’t time to make a whole meal, and these are just the thing for the job.

Both flavors are made entirely from natural ingredients: cashews, organic gluten free oats, almonds, honey, allulose, almond butter, organic coconut flour, kosher salt, and vanilla. The only new ingredient in the Chocolate Chip Honey Nut Simple Squares are the chips themselves, which are made from cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, and cocoa butter.

These Simple Squares are also perfect for those with dietary restrictions, as they are dairy, soy, gluten, and refined sugar free, not to mention non-GMO. However, it is important to note that both flavors contain tree nuts.

The nuts in these Simple Squares make them a great source of protein, and the honey acts as a natural sweetener so that you’re getting all the great flavor you could want without any of the unnecessary added sugars that usually come with junk foods.

Junk foods are perfectly fine in moderation, as most things are, but you don’t want to have a diet that relies on them completely because it can cause serious health issues and also means you won’t be getting all the nutrients you need.

If you’re looking to make the switch to a more healthy diet, a great way to start is to find some healthy alternatives to junk food to act as staples in your pantry, whether it be for cooking or snacking. With less junk food on hand, you’re less likely to be tempted, so make sure your shopping lists reflect your desire to eat what’s good for you.

Simple Botanics Simple Squares are a great healthy snack to buy in bulk if you want to steer yourself away from junk food— they’re made with your health and taste buds both in mind so that you don’t have to compromise on either factor.

You should definitely consider cutting junk food out of your daily diet routines, and consider incorporating Simple Squares and other healthy swaps for junk food instead. What you eat is an incredibly important factor for both your physical and mental wellbeing, so it’s very important for you to put a lot of thought into it.

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