Health tips: 10 alternatives for junk food that can change your fitness game

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Aug 12, 2022 11:08 AM IST

While willpower is great, complete abstinence can often result in a junk food binge at a later stage and that’s where finding suitable alternatives comes in – to help you satisfy your cravings the smarter way. Check out these 10 junk replacements that can change your fitness game

The taste of junk food can be so tempting however, if you’re looking to get fitter, you will need to find a way to control these cravings. While it is completely okay to indulge in what you love once in a while, making healthier food choices and smarter behavioural strategies can go a long way in changing your fitness game.

Health tips: 10 alternatives for junk food that can change your fitness game (Andres Ayrton)
Health tips: 10 alternatives for junk food that can change your fitness game (Andres Ayrton)

We live in an era where junk food is not just a trend but for many it can be a means to an end due to its gratifying nature upon consumption and accessibility. Everyday there is someone launching new concepts of junk food that are mouth-watering and this kind of food is addictive because the levels of sugar, salt and fat trigger the pleasure points in our brains known as "sensory specific satiety” - the causal effect that leaves you craving for more!

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While willpower is great, complete abstinence can often result in a binge at a later stage and that’s where finding suitable alternatives comes in – to help you satisfy your cravings the smarter way. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Manan Vora, Sports Medicine Expert and Orthopaedic Surgeon, revealed a list of 5 junk foods and their replacements:

1. Kale chips instead of potato chips – At the end of the day, what you’re really craving is that crunch. Replacing potato chips with kale chips not only provides the crunch, but it adds nutritional value to your food choice. Additionally, kale chips will have fewer grams of fat. Baking the chips and adding salt and pepper to it is also an option. The key with chips is portion control, we often get carried away once we start eating them, so it’s important to decide the quantity beforehand and only eat that much.

2. Dark chocolate instead of chocolate - The more chocolate is processed, the more is loses the qualities that make it healthy in the first place. Many of the benefits of chocolate come from flavanols (phytonutrients found in cocoa), which have antioxidant effects—and a very bitter taste but as it's fermented, alkalized, and roasted to help neutralize that taste, those flavanols start to disappear. Since dark chocolate contains a minimum of 35 percent cocoa, it keeps more of its health benefits than milk chocolate, which only contains under 10 percent cocoa, making it the better choice for you to consume.

3. Home-made smoothies instead of milkshakes - One great trait of smoothies is that you can sneak almost any fruit and many vegetables into them while still making them taste good. Studies show that eating sufficient fruits and vegetables each day reduces the risk of chronic diseases and helps you maintain a healthy body weight. Additionally, smoothies will also be loaded with fibre, which is great for your overall health.

4. Lemon water instead of soda - Lemon water is a refreshing drink and an easy way to add a little extra vitamin C and antioxidants into your diet. Adding a splash of lemon to your water may make water more appealing to drink, which could help you cut back on drinking sugary sports drinks and juices. Lemon water may help improve digestion and even support weight loss.

5. Baked veggie fries instead of French fries - Basic veggie fries are cut vegetable spears or wedges tossed with a light coating of oil and salt, and then baked at a high temperature. The fries will be soft on the inside with a crispy, crunchy exterior. Try them out with carrot and sweet potato.

Asserting that junk food is designed to be easily accessible, attractive and ambrosial, Dr Rebecca Pinto, a physiotherapist, highlighted why should one ever want to switch to healthier options. Well, your love for junk food is directly proportional to risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer hence, she listed 5 junk replacements that you must try:

1. French Fries or Baked Sweet Potato Fries? - Instead of choosing to eat ready to cook crispy “fried” slices of potatoes you can bake a batch of your own at home which doesn’t even contain any harmful preservatives and will give you the same savouriness that regular French fries would. All you need to do is take out merely 10 minutes to toss slices of sweet potato with some salt, pepper, paprika and coconut/extra-virgin olive oil and bake them in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes; by the time you even finish maybe 2 items on your to-do list, you’ll have a fresh healthy batch of fries that are good for you heart, soul & body.

2. Cookies or homemade granola bars? - Now, if you have a sweet tooth, don’t worry, choosing to be fit doesn’t have to get in your way at all. You can easily make granola bars at home that will satisfy your cookie cravings. All you need is granola, some almond/peanut butter, cinnamon, salt, your choice of nuts, dry fruits and honey; mix it all up in your grinder, place it in a container and let it sit for an hour & voila, you can chop into the mixture and consume your bars to your liking without any guilt.

3. Chicken wings or Tandoori roasted cauliflower bites? - Yes! You read that right! Tandoori roasted cauliflower bites are just as palatable as chicken wings. If you’re making them at home, the recipe is the same, with just one ingredient replacement and a world of difference in your diet.

4. White bread or Multigrain bread? - This one is a very obvious choice that you may already be aware of. Multigrain bread offers a wider range of benefits in comparison to your white bread made of wheat flour which is known for risks of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol.

5. Chips to Makhana - Makhana when toasted in some desi ghee and salt will give you the "sensory specific satiety” of consuming chips that I mentioned earlier on. As natural as it is to yearn for junk food, there are always healthy alternatives that you can opt for to replace your intake of junk and change your fitness game.

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