The secret to junking junk food snacks

Healthy snacksIs the thought of fresh jelly donuts in your break room driving you to distraction? Are fat, sugar and salt your basic food groups of choice? And is there only one answer to the question: “Want fries with that?” If so, you may be among the majority of adults whose health is at risk from a steady diet of junk food snacks. Dietitian Claire Cody reveals a secret for curbing your cravings, plus her favorite healthy grab-and-go snacks. Read more.

When it comes to junk food, Americans increasingly can’t say no. The average adult consumes a whopping 100 pounds of refined sugar and 50 pounds of fat and oil every year. The main ingredients in junk food snacks — fat, sugar and salt — are linked to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure and stroke.

Satisfy cravings with healthy alternatives

A clinical dietitian at The University of Kansas Hospital, Cody believes the secret to de-junking your diet is this: Identify exactly what you’re craving, then have healthier alternatives on hand to satisfy that urge.

“If you’re craving something sweet, try a cup of low-fat, fruit-flavored Greek yogurt instead of a bowl of premium ice cream,” she said. “If you’re craving the salty crunch of potato chips, reach for higher-fiber baked corn chips or whole-grain crackers.”

Cody’s success strategy for healthier snacking is first to scour the house – and your car and your office space – and toss the fat- and sugar-laden snacks. Then stock up on better options, focusing on alternatives to the junk food flavors you and your family members typically crave. 

Craving a crunchy snack? 

  • Apples with natural peanut butter
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Green bell pepper slices
  • Zucchini circles
  • Radishes
  • Broccoli spears
  • Cauliflower
  • Pretzels, unsalted
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Rice cakes, unsalted 
  • Popcorn, unsalted
Seeking something sweet? 
  • Fruit cups, unsweetened or water-packed
  • Raisins 
  • Dried fruits (keep portions very small)
  • Bananas, plain or frozen
  • Grapes, plain or frozen 
  • Fruit yogurt, unsweetened, low-fat or fat-free 
  • Frozen yogurt, fat-free
  • Baked apple with cinnamon
  • Cocoa made with nonfat milk
  • Dark chocolate, 1 oz.
Have the munchies?
  • Sunflower seeds, no salt or oil
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes 
  • Almonds, plain
  • Walnuts, plain
  • Other nuts, plain or dry-roasted 
  • Soynuts, unsalted
  • Dry cereal, no sugar added
  • Trail mix with unsalted nuts and limited sugars

“People sometimes tell me it costs too much to buy healthier snacks,” Cody said. “But you can pay now for nutritious foods that help ensure a longer, healthier life, or pay later for doctor’s visits, medication and hospital stays to treat chronic diseases. The choice is yours.”