Healthy Junk Food :)

It all depends on what peoples’ connotations of junk foods are for healthy eating habits and living. The average person’s need for definitions of junk food-and how they in reality influence their food choice and health is too confusing and contradicting when it comes to choose a healthier lifestyle.

Can you have healthy potato chips or a healthy French fries if you consider that junk food?Let me help you clear the line between healthy and regular junk food by focusing on the basics. Is there such a thing as healthy junk food? The more minimal and natural the ingredient list, the more likely the product is good.

I am sure a few of you will be able to follow this advice and make your own healthy junk food that can offset temptations for ―bad junk food. Let’s start from where we source our supply from with the following choices;

Grocery Store Navigation

Stay on the outer aisles of stores where healthier choices are available to the customer. This is where the fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, dairy, meats, and many other core foods are available to make your own meals, snacks, and healthy snack creations. As much as possible, these core foods should be purchased from a local sources. A fruit that was fully ripened on a tree, picked and sold within a few days will rival any candy sitting on a shelf for months.

The ingredient and nutrition section of the packages in the middle aisles area are to be studied very carefully especially in terms of the serving size (read portion control). There are a ton of websites online that provide food labels for review, can assist you to prepare your snack without guilt as you are walking the middle aisles. Remember to stay focused on the principles in choosing to make your own food; namely being simple, clean, and pronounceable.

The bulk food section can be a fun and creative way to make your own healthy junk food. Jars of nuts, dried fruits, flax seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Melon seeds and even dark chocolate chips will invite the genius in you to quickly make their own trail mix. Some bulk sections have premade mixes to save time, but make sure you read the label before you pick them.

Snack food section:

Think of snacks as the way to assure a nutrition filled, balanced diet. This will help supply missed vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Snack when you’re hungry. Skip the urge to snack when you’re bored, frustrated or stressed. Choose snacks for variety and choose a variety of snack foods within each food group. Here are a few important tips on the same.

  • Get out and go for a Walk or do another activity instead.
  • Make snacks a conscious activity. Avoid watching TV or eating absentmindedly.
  • Eat snacks well ahead of mealtime-for example, 2-3 hours before meals.
  • Be sure snacks are small portions-for example, 1 serving on the container.
  • Be aware of the calories of snacks. A rough example would be around 150 calories.
  • Choose snacks that contain unsaturated fats.
  • Choose snacks that are nutrient dense and not full of empty calories like simple sugars.

Salty – Limited ingredients are very important, so avoid added ―cheese‖ or other flavorings. Baked chips, pretzels, nuts, or popcorn are better choices in these aisles. Be wary of sodium contents.

Solid Sweets – If you are unable to avoid these aisles, go for dark chocolate without unnecessary ingredients. Fruit or spice additions to dark chocolate bars can help add dimension to your treat. Avoid high fructose corn syrup products.

Liquid Sweets – Stay away from these aisles. Fruit juices with added sugar, soft drinks, and other products in this area are empty calories and do not help satisfy hunger. If you need colored liquids, find fruit juices without added sugar and add sparkling water to make your own soda.

Other healthy junk food choices include:

  • Avocado slices on bread with spices
  • Homey mustard sauce ( Read ingredient carefully)
  • Salsa (look for local products that are fresh and usually without preservatives)
  • Humus and guacamole dips to satisfy ―creamy‖ cravings
  • Frozen peas (if unable to cook, look on the shelves for dried peas, but look out for the sodium content)
  • Low fat cheese with apples
  • Peanut butter/chiki with crackers or a fruit.
  • Try all of the butters-peanut, soy, almond unless you are allergic to some nuts.
  • The old standby of yogurt/ curd / butter milk.

Most of us think only of salty or sweet when it comes to junk food. Do we ever consider the addition of preservatives and chemicals (emulsifiers, colouring agents etc…) as a choice to differentiate between food and junk food?

Have you made an attempt to create your own junk food? Instead of defining food made by others, why can’t you define your own food? Keep your ingredients clean, simple, and add your own salt or sweetener such as honey or stevia or jagerry or brown sugar or fresh fruit to low fat yogurt. The more you create your own and cook yourself, obviously the better your health is going to be.

Unfortunately, many of you barely have the time to maintain this type of food planning and preparation schedule. As a professional or even as a busy housewife or as a student, I can understand and relate to the temptation and the dilemma that’s because of the knowledge (read guilt); Let me help you with some useful tips to overcome this guilt.

  1. Keep the ingredients simple (core ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy, etc.).
  2. If hunger drives you to a convenience store, find the shortest ingredient list possible-a bag of peanuts-to help you through your hunger predicament.
  3. If your choice is only energy bars or a similar snack;
  4. Avoid hydrogenated oils
  5. Make sure sugar is at the bottom of the ingredient list (if present at all)
  6. Look for honey, brown sugar, jaggery , stevia as a substitute for sugar
  7. Choose whole grains
  8. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, why do you want to eat it.‖?

Take your meal planning ideas on the road as well, whether be it your travel for business or for pleasure. Since you can’t control the food environment around you while traveling, prepare yourself with your own snacks or scoop out in advance for grocery stores aisles that can provide healthier ingredients than room service.

PLAN AHEAD! Keep healthy snack on hand at work. While visiting movie halls try to avoid vending machines, fast foods and convenience stores where there are many unhealthy options. And finally, in a super market if you can promise anything to yourself, promise to not buy anything within 10 feet of the checkout counter.

Always keep an eye on the carbohydrate/protein balance in any meal as well as adding nutrients to fill gaps and add in some form of physical activity. When in an indulgent mood, simply add a sweeter or salty ingredient to satisfy the guilt-seeker in you by following any of the tips above.