Five healthy alternatives that’ll scratch your junkfood itch
Whole-wheat muffin mini-pizzas
Pizza may be one of the best-tasting of all junk foods, but it’s often also one of the unhealthiest. Any pizza you buy from a shop or restaurant is likely to contain over 1,000 calories, processed ingredients, way too much sodium, and maybe a dose of extra trans-fats. Depending on the thickness of the base, you might also find yourself overloading on carbs and crashing right after the meal.
You can tackle all these issues with one incredibly simple, tasty, switch-out. Simply get a whole-wheat English muffin, cut it in half, apply a little bit of olive oil and tomato passata to each slice, then garnish with your favourite herbs and toppings and pop in the oven.
These little bites will be free from 90% of the unhealthy additives you’d get from a microwave pizza and will supply only a fraction of the calories, while leaving your taste-buds happy.
You could even have them for breakfast.
Portobello mushroom burgers
It’s impossible to think of junk food without thinking of burgers. They’re the centrepiece of the fast-food industry. Almost everyone enjoys them, and almost no one thinks they’re healthy. The problems are all familiar – high sodium, too much saturated - and possibly trans - fats, and any additional additives and high-sugar mystery sauces.
If you’re after a low-calorie hamburger alternative to scratch the itch, consider a homemade Portobello mushroom burger. It’s as easy as grilling the mushroom and adding it to a bun, along with some lettuce, a few modest toppings (homemade mayonnaise is a good shout).
The meaty flavour of the mushroom will help satisfy your cravings at only 22 calories per 100g, and you’ll be able to keep the levels of unhealthy additives low at the same time.
Oven baked chips
Like all things deep-fried, conventional chips are going to be high in calories and likely not a great food to have as a staple of your diet. That’s before the traditional “cover it with salt and ketchup” dining method is factored in, too.
If you think the oven-bake varieties you can buy at the shop are going to be healthier, you’re starting to get on the right track. Still, if you buy it in a packet, you can expect it to contain ingredients you’d never have imagined.
For a lower-calorie, back-to-basics snack with no surprise ingredients, why not make your own oven-baked chips instead? All it takes is cutting a few potatoes into slivers, drizzling a bit of olive oil over them, seasoning, and putting in the oven to bake until ready.
Popcorn is a great solution for any urges you might get to snack on something crunchy and tasty. It definitely beats a packet of crisps.
The kind of popcorn you get at the cinema isn’t that great for you, though. It’s usually saturated in salt and hydrogenated oils, and maybe sugar.
A healthy alternative is to make your own air-popped popcorn at home. All it takes is a brown paper bag and some corn kernels. Add a couple of tablespoons of kernels to the bag, fold it over a couple of times, and microwave it until you hear the popping slow.
You can still add butter, salt or pepper to the finished product – but at least you’ll know exactly what went into it and how much.
Dark-chocolate coated nuts
Popular chocolate bars tend to be a nightmare for the health-conscious, containing heaps of sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, along with assorted suspect additives and flavourings.
As a healthy alternative, why not opt to snack on dark-chocolate coated nuts when the mood strikes you? Nuts are a great source of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, while dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is associated with higher levels of antioxidants than most other foods.