Junk food: the bain of our healthy habits. It’s a constant temptation and we know it isn’t good for us, but we give in on occasion. The occasional junk food splurge doesn’t pose a large threat to your health, but frequent consumption of fast, junk food can have a snowball effect. Many common junk foods contains a plethora of preservatives, artificial colorings and even mildly-addictive chemicals.
Mind you, healthy food and junk food have been found to be equally as addicting. The key to how to stop eating junk food is to form habits that you adhere to most of the time. Your body will adapt to this new, nutrient rich food intake and will crave those foods instead of these empty-calorie choices. Swapping out your favorite junk food for a healthier alternative will get you on the road to eliminating the bad stuff.
If you’re not convinced that a healthy lifestyle complete with whole, real foods is the key to optimal health, try a week of this swapping routine and pay attention to how you feel, how your energy is, how your digestion feels, how you sleep, etc. Junk food and healthy food will ultimately both put calories into your body; the difference is that healthy food will also equip you with the nutrients that your body needs to keep up its “housework.”
There isn’t a system in your body that does not require certain vitamins and minerals to function its best. Thus, making these healthy changes goes far beyond vanity, beyond your weight, beyond your waistline. It’s about fueling your body food it recognizes and thrives on, not products and foods that were created to simply have a long shelf life and fill up space in your stomach. As scary as it sounds, eating junk foods regularly and neglecting the healthy options sets you up for illness and disease.
You may be so accustomed to your junk food routine that you can’t imagine that healthy alternatives to junk food could be just as tasteful and satisfying. Understand that fat and sugar are not to be feared. Of course, balancing those macronutrients is important. But, focus on quality. In other words, the main downfall of fried chicken is the quality of the oil, batter and chicken used. A few simple swaps can keep your favorite spurges delicious, guilt-free and add a boost of nutrition.
If you’re looking for how to stop eating junk food, consider and integrate these suggested junk food substitutes. Also, don’t be afraid to add spices and fresh herbs to these dishes to amplify the hearty flavors even more.
1. French Fries
French fries just might be the most common fast, junk food around. You can grab a batch of hot fries on merely every corner. The problem with french fries is not the potato, nor that it’s cooked in oil. It’s the quality of the potato and the quality of the oil. I should also be paired with some protein to make it a balanced meal.
Loaded, Organic Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet potatoes are a more nutrient dense version of your common white or yellow potato. They boast more flavor, and can act as both a dessert or a savory dish because of their sweetness. Here’s how to whip up a batch of loaded sweet potato fries:
- Slice up 2 large, organic sweet potatoes
- Fill a saucepan with 1/2 inch of organic coconut oil
- Cook on medium heat until the potatoes are golden brown
- Top the fries with organic, free-range chicken if you desire added protein
- Top with cinnamon for a sweet treat
Similar to fries, burgers are very readily available in this age. Unfortunately, most (if not all) fast food burgers are made with low-grade meats. The cows that this meat comes from have been injected with hormones that stimulate milk production and make them more robust. Thus, they provide more meat per cow.
This isn’t a humane way to keep and care for cows. Luckily, there are many farms using grass-fed, hormone free, free-range beef. This means that the cows are given pastures to roam freely and eat as they please, sans hormones. These methods make for healthy cows and better-for-you meat.
A typical burger set up includes a bun, meat patty and optional veggies/condiments. Here’s how to make your burger healthy:
Organic Hybrid Burger
- Use a free-range, grass-fed, hormone free, organic meat patty (becoming increasingly more accessible in your local market).
- Combine an equal part of healthy grains like quinoa & amaranth with the beef to form a patty that is half meat, half hearty grains.
- Cook to your liking.
- Add organic veggies like onion, romaine lettuce and tomato.
- Top with organic ketchup and/or mustard. You can find these at most health food stores.
- Use an organic bread bun that contains whole grains. Opt for no bun if you want to make this dish lighter.
3. Potato Chips
Snacking on a bag of potato chips is a favorite past time of many. The big-box brands you’ll find in supermarkets are often full of genetically-modified potatoes, oil and table salt. Similar to french fries, don’t think that potatoes are the enemy.
The quality of the potatoes, oil and salt is what’s important. Potatoes, a root vegetable, provide starchy carbs which can be satisfying and tolerable for those who are gluten intolerant. However, there are more nutrient dense options to choose for chips.
Apple or banana chips
- Simply slice up a few apples and bananas and spread them out onto a baking sheet.
- Cook at 250 degrees for 45 minutes or until the fruit is slightly brown on its edges.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon for an added zip of flavor.
Soda is perhaps the absolute worst food habit there is. Not only is it available everywhere (making it even more tempting), but it’s loaded with sugar, preservatives, colorings and artificial ingredients. Eliminating or drastically reducing your soda intake will be a very wise decision for you health.
That said, habits we enjoy don’t have to be cut out completely, rather they should be morphed into a healthier habit. It’s important to understand that diet soda is just as bad, if not worse than traditional soda.
Kombucha is a bubbly, fermented tea that aids healthy digestion and encourages detoxification. Its naturally effervescent nature makes it just as satisfying as soda. It contains only a small amount of organic sugar, which is used in the fermentation process, along with natural sweetness from the fruit juice used. Kombucha is a fantastic drink that will help you transition out of your soda habit. You can find kombucha in more and more stores every day.
In all of this, know that cutting out junk food cold turkey works for some and doesn’t for others. Allow yourself a transition period if you need it, and slowly integrate theses healthy junk food alternatives. You’ll be hooked on the healthier you soon enough that you’ll want to stick with it.