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What makes junk food so appealing? Emotional eating aside, it often comes down to two things: taste (sweet, salty) and texture (creamy, fizzy, crunchy). In my humble opinion, if we can mimic those qualities in healthier options, then upgrading eating habits becomes an easier task. So let’s tackle three commonly craved foods: soda, chips, and mayonnaise.
Soda A “refreshing” couple hundred of calories will spike your blood sugar and provide no nutrients. So what keeps us drawn to soda? It’s usually the fizz factor and the sweet taste. Consider which aspects of soda attract you to it, and then find the right substitute.
The Healthy Swaps:
Seltzer or Sparkling Water If you like the fizz, carbonated beverages can serve as a great substitute. Naturally flavored versions are available if you want a taste of orange, berry, lemon-lime and more.
Flavored Water If you prefer getting some taste with your fluids but don’t want the fizz, you can easily add some flavor to your water. You can use lemon or lime (fresh or from the squeeze bottle), or a splash of your favorite juice for a little sweetness. You can even use a splash of juice with seltzer too.
Chips Crunchiness and saltiness are the key components of chips. Unfortunately, chips can also pack lots of extra calories from added oils and frying. Plus, the low water and fiber content of chips can lead us to consume multiple servings without realizing (to give you an idea, one serving of chips is only a palmful).
The Healthy Swaps:
Baked beet, sweet potato or kale chips Variety is the spice of life, so give these chip alternatives a shot. Baking can help reduce the amount of oil used, and spices can give them a flavorful kick – thyme, rosemary, garlic or just good old pepper.
Popcorn Popped popcorn will allow you to eat more for the same amount of calories: 2 to 3 cups of popcorn is equal to about one ounce of chips. Popcorn also comes with a lot of fiber. Rather than using lots of butter and oil, consider topping the popcorn with some lower calorie options like curry powder or brewer’s yeast.
Crunchy veggies Carrots, celery and water chestnuts are just a few of many veggies that deliver lots of crunch without lots of calories. Try them with your sandwich.
Mayonnaise Most people like mayo for the creamy texture and its ability to carry flavors (fat carries flavor, and mayo has lots of fat!). When we make a swap, we need to maintain a creamy texture and keep the fat content relatively high, with a focus on healthy, plant-based fats.
The Healthy Swaps:
Hummus Typically made from chickpeas, sesame seeds and olive oil, hummus has about half the calories of mayo. Plus it has some protein and fiber! Hummus usually comes in a range of flavors, so you can customize the spread to your sandwich or dish.
Avocado With a slightly nutty flavor, avocado can boost the taste of any sandwich or salad, with fewer calories than mayonnaise. To take it a step further, make some guacamole with garlic, onion, tomato, lime juice and cilantro and use as a spread or as a dip for fresh veggies.
Tell Us: What are some of your favorite healthy swaps?
Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.
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