The 10 All-Time Most Tempting Junk Foods (and smart alternatives)

These common health offenders are incredibly tempting for even the most disciplined person from time to time. We bring you some sensible alternatives for those moments when you are wavering.

1. French fries

This is the ultimate junk food for most of us – and America’s #1 consumed “vegetable”. (Shudder.) French fries satisfy that craving for fat and saltiness, but because they are actually a starch, your blood sugar pays the price. Part of the reason they are so addictive is that there is a tremendous amount of oral reinforcement – much like smoking a cigarette.

Here are a couple of ideas: You can make yam fries at home – simply slice, coat with egg whites and a seasoning like Lawry’s, and bake instead of frying. When you’re at a restaurant, get creamed spinach or buttered broccoli instead of fries to kill those fat-salt cravings while providing fiber and vitamins. At convenience stores, go for a stick of string cheese. At fast-food joints, get a small salad and enjoy some grated cheese or creamy dressing to mimic the saltiness and fatty mouth-feel of a french fry.

2. Donuts

Take hydrogenated fat and bleached worthless flour. Combine. Now deep fry in lard. Wow, sounds excellent! A fluffy, tender, sweet donut is a brutal temptation found in seemingly every office in America. Just say no, and bite into trail mix instead. Cashews and pistachios are particularly good as substitutes because they are so fatty and contain a hint of sweetness.

3. Chips

Like french fries, chips quickly become addictive with each additional crispy bite. The combination of sodium, trans fat, and empty sugar (the starch) makes the chip one of the most nutrient-deficient and simultaneously unhealthy foods on the planet. Chips are easier to control, however, as they usually aren’t offered to you at restaurants. You have to hit up the vending machine or take home a few packs from the store. Simply stop doing that, silly! To deal with snack cravings, go for nuts. Also consider if you are drinking enough water every day. Properly hydrated bodies don’t crave as much salt. Try it!

4. Ice cream

Ice cream and milkshakes are incredibly satisfying because they are loaded with fat and sugar. Just ask Mark. He used to tear through an entire carton of ice cream every night in his running days! To kill the ice cream craving, a smart idea is to simply allow yourself a planned indulgence once a month with the absolute richest, highest quality ice cream around. That is usually enough to satisfy cravings and also remind you why you have given up junk food in the first place (oh, those sugar hangovers). You can try the malitol and “no sugar added” varieties, but they’re loaded with chemicals and are rather sorry alternatives, in our opinion.

5. Fried…oh, fried anything!

You get to a restaurant and have the best of intentions: fish and vegetables only! That’s terrific, except for the fact that you’ve ordered fried fish. Breaded and deep-fried seafood, chicken, cheese and snacks are weak points for many people. But the truth is that extra flavor – from seasonings like garlic, sea salt, herbs, and good stock – can fool your mouth pretty easily. Now that we know fat isn’t bad for us, be generous with the olive oil or butter and you’ll satisfy your body’s cravings without wandering into trans-fat sugar-shock territory. At home, you can pan fry chicken, fish, pork chops or a small steak at searing high heat with some butter or coconut oil to lock in a crispy natural crust that is just as good as anything breaded and deep fried. And stay away from the 88 deadliest foods.

6. Candy bars

This is easy: simply indulge in a small portion of dark chocolate and berries or a piece of fruit! You can also whip up a protein smoothie with fruit instead of chomping down on bars. Trail mix provides chewiness, fiber, and the salty-sweet taste we love. In fact, there’s just no reason to eat a candy bar with all the wonderful dark chocolate and exotic fruits available these days! The best part: these alternatives are good for you.

7. Soda

If it’s not a fried latte, it’s a can of Coke. Sweet drinks in general are the nutrition world’s minefield, and your body doesn’t need any of these sugar bombs going off inside it. If you can go cold turkey, good for you. Alternatives include diet soda, which we don’t recommend, but sometimes baby steps are in order. You might try seltzer water with a squeeze of orange, lemon or a few raspberries for flavor. Water doesn’t have to be boring: add a sprig of fresh mint or a few slices of cucumber.

8. Pizza

Oh, the greasy, melting cheese atop that fluffy, crispy crust of starch. Toss in some “meat” toppings and it really doesn’t get any worse. Pizza is America’s favorite dinner and corporate America’s default lunch: we eat 100 acres of the stuff daily. No wonder we’re so overweight and diabetic. A better alternative is a grilled chicken breast with marinara and melted provolone, or a salad jammed with chewy, satisfying ingredients like cheese, chicken, boiled eggs, artichokes, nuts, and mushrooms.

9. Cookies

It’s often easy enough to turn down pie or cake or some other dessert. But those blasted cookies are everywhere! Meetings, church, school plays, sporting events, games, even in the waiting room! You might need to consider keeping a steady supply of trail mix or nuts in your purse or glove compartment if cookies are a weakness for you. Though even a little sugar can get you back into the craving cycle, if you are someone who can control your intake easily, consider just eating one bite of the cookie. And we also recommend going the route of ice cream and planning an indulgence in one amazing cookie every month or so, rather than stuffing yourself with the unsatisfying little dried buggers that pop up everywhere. After a few of those, you don’t feel good and may still crave the decadent cookie anyway.

10. What’s your biggest dietary temptation and how do you control it?

Photo by Sarah Bara Wears Mascara

Further reading:

Foods That Fight Inflammation

5 Tips to Avoid Temptation

If You’re Gonna Cheat, Do It Right

16 Ultimate Super Foods

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