One of the most difficult obstacles that health enthusiasts have to overcome is learning to eat tempting, unhealthy foods in moderation. There are several substitute goods on the market, but sometimes these products don’t taste good or are full of filler ingredients that make them just as unhealthy—if not more so. Rather than approaching healthy eating by resorting to such substitutes or undergoing the mentally strenuous task of swearing off your favorite junk foods, treat yourself to indulgent treats every now and then, and seek out these alternatives to help you overcome your cravings.
If you’re craving cookies, chances are you’re craving something sweet in general. Make protein-packed raw cookies instead, using dates, oats, and nuts as a base. Next, mix in nut butters, cinnamon, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut chips for different flavor combinations. For a quicker go-to snack, top rice cakes with nut butters and fresh fruit compote; just be sure that the rice cakes you purchase only have two ingredients: rice and salt.
When you yearning for chips, you’re most likely craving something salty. First drink a glass of water—you might just be thirsty. Refrain from eating crackers too often, because some may be just as unhealthy and high in sodium. Vegetable chips are a nice alternative. However, they can be expensive and high in sodium if bought in a store. The best alternatives are other savory foods, such as pickles, air-popped popcorn with nutritional years, or protein-packed and filling edamame beans with sea salt and black pepper.
Sodas are exorbitantly high in artificial sweeteners. If you have a craving for sweet, carbonated soda, pour a little bit of fruit juice into seltzer water or drink kombucha. By customizing your own seltzer water “sodas”, you can even mix flavors to suit your own taste. Additionally, kombucha is a fermented tea that even offers health benefits, such as probiotics! It also comes in a variety of flavors, so it’s not likely that you’ll miss soda very much.
Bread is not necessarily bad, but many store-bought loaves are made of refined grains and mysterious dough conditioners. Bread can also easily constitute the majority of your day’s calories, and many kinds are not rich in nutrients. Try using lettuce as a wrap or a base for your burgers and sandwich fillings. Rice cakes have very little flavor on their own, but the can serve as great vehicles for sandwich toppings (both savory and sweet). You might even consider switching over to Ezekiel toast (which is made of sprouted grains) as a healthier alternative, or make homemade bread instead.
Despite being advertised as full of nutrients, cereal is often packed with refined grains and sugars that are easily digestible and leave you feeling hungry. Granola can be a nice alternative if you’re seeking the crunchy texture, but it is easy to overeat granola. Certain kinds can also be very expensive or full of refined sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. Moreover, overeating poses greater effects, as small quantities already tend to be high in calories. Oatmeal or cooked quinoa, on the other hand, is a better daily choice. Both are high in protein and fiber, are easily digestible, and expand when cooked due to water absorption. This tricks your mind into believing that you are eating more. You can still get creative and be inspired by your favorite cereal flavors—consider adding the following toppings to your bowls of oatmeal or quinoa: cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup, coconut whipped cream with banana slices and cacao nibs, or a spoonful of almond butter and fresh apple compote.
6. Ice cream
Homemade sorbets that are lightly sweetened (or not sweetened at all) are great alternatives to ice cream—you can even retain the fibers in the real fruit juices to help slow digestion and decrease the spike in blood sugar. Gourmet ice pops are also becoming new trend foods, and they’re easy to make on your own. Coconut or cashew cream are great vegan-friendly, creamy bases that pair well with any fruit or nut butter combination. However, since both are higher in fat content, these “healthy” takes on junk foods should still be considered treats.
Granted, pizza is difficult to replace, but there are ways to eat it more often without indulging in a greasy slice every day. Choose healthier bases, such as a cauliflower crust made of cauliflower florets and an egg, a low-carb English muffin, or a tortilla. Next, resort to low-sodium, natural tomato sauce, pesto, oven-roasted garlic, or hummus as spreads. To really cut back on the indulgence, sprinkle some nutritional yeast, or just be less generous with the cheeses (think margherita-style, where you only add dollops of high quality cheese instead).