I can drink my superfood smoothies for breakfast every morning and make amazing salads every day for lunch. But to me, life’s not worth living if I can’t indulge every now and then. I’m a firm believer that making something completely off limits will just make you obsess over it and want it more, so I’m all about everything in moderation. Yes, I sometimes eat what some would consider “junk food.” I don’t deprive myself of my favorite cookies or peanut butter cups, for example. I just try to make good choices most of the time so that I can fit them in. And I try not to eat them all the time.
But as people pay more attention to the foods they’re putting into their bodies, companies are paying more attention to what they’re putting in those foods. Healthier versions of “junk food” have come out — and they’re options you can actually feel good about munching on. Ingredient lists have started to list more familiar words; nutrition facts aren’t as scary. We review tons and tons of these types of foods over on Fit Bottomed Girls, and we’ve come across lots of healthier options that can satisfy cravings. I’ve actually come to prefer most of them to the “real” unhealthy deal.
These options are special treats, but they’re special in that you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying them! Here are just a few of my favorite substitutes for junk food favorites. You just might find a new option or two!
14 Healthier Swaps for Your Favorite Junk Food 1 of 15
No need to give up your favorite junk food, especially when you swap it for one of these healthier fixes!
Chips 2 of 15
When you're craving a salty, crunchy snack, one of the first things that comes to mind is chips. But the high-calorie craving can be substituted with healthier items like LesserEvil's crinkle sticks or PopChips. LesserEvil's puffed potatoes are an airy, crunchy chip that won't leave your fingers a neon color. In cheddar, sour cream and onion, veggie, and a plain sea salt variety, you can conquer whatever chip craving you've got. Plus, 35 of the sticks clock in at 120 calories, so you get a major crunchy chip fix for a minimal amount of cals. The veggie variety has potato, corn, spinach and broccoli, in addition to seven whole grains. Popchips are crunchy and satisfying for a chip-a-holic at just 100 calories a bag. Like LesserEvil, there are tons of flavors to choose from. Beanitos are another chip lover's favorite; made with beans, Beanitos pack fiber, protein and a lot of crunch.
French Fries 3 of 15
Forget the greasy French fries, and go for a new, healthier take on the classic favorite: sweet potato fries! You can make them yourself or go for something like Alexia's sweet potato fries, which are a new family favorite. In the Alexia version, a 12-fry serving gives you 140 calories, 5 grams of healthy fat, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar and 1 gram of protein, plus lots of vitamin A and some potassium.
Cookies 4 of 15
Sometimes on a fall afternoon, the only cure for a craving is a cookie. But don't head for the vending machine or whip up a high-calorie comfort cookie. I recently discovered the BelVita Soft-Baked Breakfast Biscuits, and even though they're technically for your first meal of the day, they're also great snacks. There is a mixed berry version and oats & chocolate, and with calorie counts of 190 and 200 calories, they're a perfect fix for oatmeal cookie or chocolate chip cookie cravings. They've got 11 grams of whole grains per serving, so 20 percent of your daily fiber is taken care of. I also love the crunchy biscuits, which come four to a 230-calorie pack and are perfect for sharing.
Candy 5 of 15
Everywhere I turn, I see Unreal candies. They're the less-junky version of your favorite candies and candy bars. They contain no preservatives, no hydrogenated oils, no corn syrup and no artificial ingredients. And they manage to taste delicious even though they have less sugar than the regular stuff. A total win!
Muffins Or Cupcakes 6 of 15
Craving some cupcakes? Or a massive muffin? One of the easier ways to get your fix without the added fat and calories is a pumpkin muffin. You simply mix together 15 ounces of pumpkin with a box of spiced cake mix (or any cake mix, really) and throw in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. With less than 200 calories, you'll get a sweet fix with two grams of fiber and two grams of protein.
Buffalo Wings 7 of 15
Love wings during the football game but hate how they make you feel afterward? Try a healthier grilled chicken wing recipe that'll make your mouth water, but won't make you cry because of all the unnecessary fat. A healthier grilled version that will satisfy your wing craving is totally possible. Skipping the deep frying and all of the oil trims the fat, and the vinegar and hot sauce give you that wing kick you're looking for!
Pizza 8 of 15
My new motto when it comes to pizza is "Don't pick up the phone, make your own." Because there is no better way to make a healthier pizza than to do it yourself. It's so much easier to add the amount of cheese you want, add extra veggies and use items like turkey sausage and turkey pepperoni that might not be available at your local pizzeria. So when you're craving a pizza, pick up a pre-made crust or make your own and pile on the toppings. This Meat-and-Veggie Tortilla Pizza is a fun twist on the Italian pizza; it's super easy to throw together and kid-friendly, too.
Sugary Drinks 9 of 15
Plain, old water can get boring, but that doesn't mean you should dive headfirst into soda or "healthy" sports drinks that are calorie- and sugar-filled drinkable nightmares. But a new favorite at my house is Stur, a liquid water flavor enhancer. With flavors like Orange Mango, Tea + Lemon and PomeCranberry, Lemonade, Mint Cucumber and Strawberry, everyone can find one they'll love. I'm obsessed with the Tea + Lemon flavor. They're sweetened with stevia and natural fruit flavors, have 0 grams of sugar, 0 calories, 7 essential vitamins and come in a fun bottle.
Ice Cream 10 of 15
Ice cream is one of those sweet treats everyone loves, but a small amount can pack a serious caloric punch. No need to break your belt! There are tons of lower-cal ice cream options out there; you just have to be willing to look. Arctic Zero is one of those options, and it's so low-cal that you can have a whole pint for just 150 calories. It has 12 grams of whey protein, 8 grams of fiber, and only 5 grams of sugar per serving, and, best of all, it tastes good!
Pretzels 11 of 15
Those warm, salted pretzels at the mall can clock in some serious calories — more than 300 a pop! But you can get a soft pretzel fix for a fraction of that at home. Thomas' has pretz-a-bagels, mini pretzel bagels for 120 calories. They've got 4 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fiber, but for a soft-pretzel fix, it's a low-cal way to get it that tastes good, for sure!
Any Crunchy Craving 12 of 15
If you love a crunchy, salty snack, but don't want to go for a handful of chips or have a hard time controlling your portions when you're munching on nuts, try roasted edamame. I recently tried Seapoint Farms dry-roasted edamame, and the versions, from Lightly Salted to Spicy Wasabi to Sea Salt and Goji Blend, all had something different to offer. The standout version for me was the black edamame. At 140 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, they are a really good snack option. Black edamame is a little sweet, and these are coated in "crunchy goodness," which I'm assuming is the sea salt. So tasty.
Mac & Cheese 13 of 15
Kids love the mac, but you, as a parent, might hate that it doesn't pack more nutrition. Mom Made Meals organic frozen meals have you covered. While made for kids, they're a super-easy option for adults too. The Cheesy Mac works in butternut squash, sweet potato and peas, unlike the box version you're used to. At 230 calories, it was really tasty with a nice, creamy texture, and a little sweet because of the vegetables. Definitely a mac I wouldn't mind eating myself. The company also makes a Turkey Sausage Munchie, a pizza-pocket type of pouch of yumminess if you've got a frequent hankering for easy pizza.
Frozen Meals 14 of 15
If you dive for the frozen meals when you need dinner in a pinch, try these healthier versions of the TV dinner. Dr. Praeger's Sensible Meals offers sweet potato pancakes, broccoli pancakes, veggie burgers and meatless Buffalo wings. The ingredients lists read like a shopping list with ingredients you'll recognize, and they're low-cal and manage to keep sodium low, too. I was a big fan.
Fruit Chews 15 of 15
Forget the corn syrup and fake ingredients when you're reaching for fruit snacks. Grab the fruit with Stretch Island Fruit. The company makes fruit rolls and fruit strips, as well as fruit chews that contain real fruit. In raspberry, strawberry and cherry flavors, the chews have a simple ingredient list, and they taste like real, tart fruit. Each pack contains a full serving of fruit, and they're gluten-free. While a piece of fruit is preferred, these chews are great for a snack or special lunch-box dessert.
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