Diet Cheat Sheet: Healthy "Junk" Foods

Avoiding junk foods can seem impossible, but there are delicious, healthy alternatives that won’t derail your diet. Learn which treats won’t be an enemy to your waistline.

Diet Cheat Sheet: Healthy "Junk" Foods

Enjoy “junk foods” without the guilt. Try these healthy alternatives to some of your favorite treats.

Double Churned Ice Cream


Double churned ice cream contains more air, but is still just as creamy as traditional ice cream. Also, because double-churned ice cream is made with real cream, it’s less likely to include artificial sweeteners. Half a cup of double churned ice cream can be about 100 calories, which is less than many brands of frozen yogurt. Look for “slow churned” or “slow cold.”

Sweet Potato Fries

Baking sweet potato fries coated in olive oil can be a great way to turn a traditional junk food into a healthy side dish. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of fiber and vitamin A, which is an important nutrient for many parts of the body, including the heart. Additionally, studies show that the nutrients and antioxidants in sweet potatoes can actually help reduce the risk of cancer. 

Dark Chocolate

Instead of milk chocolate, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, an important antioxidant that helps lower blood pressure; be sure to look for a cocoa content above 70%. Dark chocolate with almonds can be an even healthier alternative, as almonds provide healthy fats. However, because nuts are high in calories, portion control is key. For more on the right way to eat nuts, click here.

Air-popped Potato Chips

Many brands of air-popped potato chips are made without artificial preservatives or corn oil. Because they are bulkier, they take up more room in the bag. This means there are fewer to eat, adding fewer calories to your day.

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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