Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “healthy” junk food, but we’re on a mission to find the healthiest of the junk food options. Sometimes a craving — like for fast food — just can’t be ignored. Sure, you know you should have a salad instead of a burger, but when a burger is what you want (and what you really want is one smothered with cheese and bacon and condiments, but you’re willing to compromise a little), a salad just isn’t going to cut it. Knowing you should eat healthy won’t stop a hankering for fast food in its tracks, so instead we learn how to pick the best of the okay — not great — options.
The same can be said for junk food. Look, we know we should be opting for a freshly blended fruit smoothie in the morning, but when what we want is a donut, a smoothie is just not going to do the trick. So, for those times that you just have to throw what you should be eating to the wind and indulge on what you really want, we’ve looked into your favorite junk food options and found their slightly healthier, still delicious alternatives.
Healthy Ice Cream
(Photo Credit: Halo Top, Ben and Jerry’s)
There’s no replacement for a good ice cream flavor. But when you absolutely need a bowl to help you recoup after a long day, you can turn to Halo Top instead of Ben and Jerry’s. B&J’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough packs a whopping 32 grams of carbs to Halo Top Mint Chip’s 14 grams. Plus, the Ben & Jerry’s has 280 calories per serving with four servings. Halo Top’s Mint Chip has only 240 calories total.
(Photo Credit: Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts)
Sure, there’s nothing quite like a Boston Kreme Donut. But the Dunkin’ Donuts treat has 300 calories, 37 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of sugar. A Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut has only 190 calories, 22 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of sugar. It’s a lighter bite for just as tasty a treat.
Healthy Soda Alternatives
(Photo Credit: La Croix, Coca-Cola)
If all you want is a flavored bubbly drink, the seriously hip La Croix is the perfect alternative to pretty much any soda. Whether you’re drinking a Coke, Diet Coke, or Coke Zero, they all have either calories or artificial sweeteners — La Croix has neither, and it doesn’t have any added sugar or sodium either. It may seem like a trick, but these flavored sparkling waters are incredibly popular.
Healthy Energy Drinks
(Photo Credit: Getty Images, Red Bull)
Let’s be honest. You’re not drinking energy drinks for their taste. Instead, you’re drinking them so you can stay up at work or get a boost in the morning or, plain and simple, make it through the day. Sure, green tea’s roughly 25mg of caffeine per cup can’t quite stand up to Red Bull’s 77mg, but green tea is high in L-theanine, which aids in concentration instead of just having you vibrating at your desk. If you need an extra energy boost, Matcha green tea offers a more comparable 70mg of caffeine per cup.
(Photo Credit: Beanitos, Frito-Lay)
The calorie content, carbs, and sodium are all pretty comparable between these two nacho cheese chip varieties. The difference? Beanitos White Bean Chips pack about five times the fiber — meaning you’ll fill up faster and eat less. No MSG, aka monosodium glutamate, also means they’re less addicting than Doritos.
(Photo Credit: UnReal, M&Ms)
Again, calorie counts, carbs, and sugars all line up pretty equally here. But when you’re eating M&Ms, you’re eating artificial flavoring and food coloring. The UnReal Milk Chocolate Gems ditch all the scary add-ins and stick to the real deal.
Healthy Mac and Cheese
(Photo Credit: Annie’s, Kraft)
If you need something extra cheesy, reach for the mac and cheese. Annie’s is the better option than Kraft: Not only does it have an extra cheese (four cheese versus three!), it also has whole grains. The slightly fewer calories (240 to Kraft’s 260) are outweighed by the massive drop in sodium (480 mg to 600).
So next time you simply need to snack or binge or indulge — well, at least now you know what your options are. But if you still really need that Ben & Jerry’s, we won’t judge.