Let’s face it: we all love indulging in some junk food cravings, as nothing says a Friday night better than pizza, buffalo wings, or a nice juicy burger. However, it’s safe to say that some of our favorite fast-food choices aren’t always the most nutritious.
Obviously, eating them in small portions, it’s perfectly healthy. However, it’s important to acknowledge that there are guilt-free alternatives to your favorite junk food items that won’t add up in saturated fats and carbohydrates.
To help you make smarter food choices next time you have the munchies, we spoke to four expert dietitians about healthy swaps that won’t sacrifice delicious flavor. Below are some guiltless snack alternatives to totally keep on your radar.
Swap French fries for roasted veggies.
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“French fries contain a chemical called acrylamide, which has been found to increase the risk of cancer in animals and likely, humans,” said Kajsa Ernestam, dietitian at health app Lifesum. A great alternative to French fries would be an oven-baked potato or baked root vegetables, she suggested.
Try nuts or dried fruit next time you are craving candy.
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“When it comes to candy, try eating a handful of nuts or dried fruit instead, as both are good for you and don’t contain too much added sugar,” Ernestam said.
Make homemade pizza instead of relying on takeout.
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“Unfortunately, the majority of takeout or restaurant pizzas are high in refined carbohydrates, sodium, and saturated fats, all of which are bad for your health,” Ernestam told INSIDER. However, she suggested that it is very easy to make a pizza at home, as she recommended making one with a crispbread base topped with low-fat cheese, chicken, and plenty of vegetables.
Try chicken, fish, or mince meat burgers instead.
- Flickr/Patrick Quinn-Graham
“Most fast food burgers will contain high amounts of trans and saturated fats, which increase your risk of coronary artery disease,” said Ernestam. A healthier alternative would be to choose lean protein as your burger meat, such as chicken, fish, or mince meat with lower fat content (which will often contain fewer calories and less saturated fat), she suggested.
Ice cream lovers can try making ‘nice cream’ at home.
- Flickr / seelensturm
“The main disadvantage of ice cream is that it is a high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sugar food,” Ernestam said. A healthy alternative would be to make ‘nice cream,’ which is made from frozen blended bananas, she suggested.
Eat hummus and vegetable dip to squash potato chips.
Potato chips may be super addictive, but Ernestam says they are anything but good for you, as each pack contains a high amount of fat, salt, sugar, and calories. Instead of munching on chips, she suggested opting for hummus and vegetable dip, which is both healthy and delicious.
Make raspberries with melted dark chocolate for dessert.
Raspberries with a 1/4 cup of melted dark chocolate may feel super decadent, but registered dietitian Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, explained that one cup of raspberries offers eight grams of fiber and just 64 calories.
Throw jerky in your lunchbox.
“Protein-packed snacks like cheese sticks or jerky are great low-calorie snack swaps that add satiety inducing protein to your diet,” said Bushra Hassan, registered dietitian and nutritionist from Swanson Health.
Switch to dark chocolate.
Instead of indulging in one serving milk chocolate, registered dietitian Sydney Greene, MS, RD, suggested trying three squares a dark chocolate bar instead.
Make your own pumpkin spice lattes.
“A pumpkin spice latte from a coffee shop can contain over 60 grams of sugar, so to save yourself money and a potential sugar overload, try making your lattes at home,” Greene suggested. To make a DIY pumpkin spice latte, Greene recommended adding one cup of hot coffee to a blender along with a 1/2 tablespoon of coconut butter, one teaspoon of maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, and a pinch of ground ginger. Blend your mixture on high for 20 seconds and enjoy.
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