We often find ourselves reaching for junk food. There is no harm in a treat every now and again, but some junk foods are worse than others and often there are other options which taste just a good. Here are 9 of the most unhealthy food choices and my tips on how to get the taste and flavour, without so much of the bad stuff!
- Chips, French Fries
- Cheesy Treats (Pizzas, Nachos, Burritos, Cheeseburgers)
- Sodas, Pop, Fizzy Drinks
- Baked Goodies (Biscuits, Cakes and Muffins)
- Processed Meat (Hot Dogs, Deli Counter Meats, Sausage Rolls)
- Economy Burgers and Chicken Nuggets
- Crisps and Salted Snacks
- Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream (Grande, Whole Milk)
- Sweet and Sour Chicken with Egg Fried Rice
Chips have little nutritional value. In addition, chips bought in many fast food joints have been dehydrated, reformed and fried in lard, suet, beef tallow or cheaper corn oil. More worryingly, acrylamide (a chemical found in plant-based foods such as potatoes and grains and which starts to form at 120◦C) has been found to cause some types of cancers.
Better Option: Bake your own potato wedges or choose mashed potatoes over chips.
Homemade Recipe: Potato Wedges
Meals smothered in cheese, including pizza, nachos, burritos and mac and cheese are far from the wonderful traditional recipes that granny cooked. The super sized portions we take for granted could be clogging our hearts with 24g of saturated fat (in an Extra large Burger King's Bacon Double Cheeseburger) or loading us with 1,200 calories in just two big slices of thick crust pizza.
Better Option: If you are getting a takeaway, share one portion between two. Choose thin crust pizzas, healthy fillings for burritos and healthy toppings like vegetables instead of deli meats on pizzas and nachos. At home cut down on the amount of cheese topping used and always serve with vegetables, salads or salsas.
Homemade Recipe: Pizza
Sodas have been linked with serious health problems, including dental health issues, diabetes, heart problems including blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. The more you drink, the more you want to drink. 1 can of Coca Cola contains almost 80% of the RDA of sugar for an adult!
Better Option: Limit the amount of sodas, fizzy drinks or eliminate from the diet altogether and drink more water or the occasional juice. Once you get used to drinking more water, you'll find you don't miss the sodas.
Homemade Recipe: Apple, Parsley, Spinach, Cucumber and Lime Smoothie
Can't bake, won't bake! But that still doesn't stop us enjoying a cake or two or indeed any baked product including pastries, buns and biscuits. The problem is that most commercial baked products use 'trans' fat, or partially hydrogenated fat. The problem is this raises cholesterol in the blood and also lowers the 'good' cholesterol. As high cholesterol is responsible for heart diseases, commercial baked goodies are a bit of a no no.
Better Option: Keep these foods for an occasional treat. Read food labels and never buy bakes with trans or partially hydrogenated fats. If you can't bake, find a local baker who uses butter, a healthy spread, or a good oil to bake.
Homemade Recipe: Low Fat Swiss Roll and Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins
Recent research discovered that processed meats that are smoked, cured or treated with salt are associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems. Add to that the fact that 80% of the calories in a hot dog and 41% of a slice of salami are derived from saturated fat, it's easy to see why these foods have been linked to the high risk of heart disease and cancers, especially of the colon.
Better Option: Reduce the amount of deli meats etc. consumed. Cook your own ham to be sure that the salt is removed.
Recipe: Cider and Mustard Baked Ham
Whether your economy burger or chicken nuggets are cooked at home or in fast food joints, it is safe to assume that the burger or chicken meat will contain little nutritional value, with 53% being made up of fillers, water and additives to keep the water stable and the flavour good enough for you to return for more. Low cost burgers and chicken nuggets contain high amounts of fat, collagen, connective tissue and any other parts of an animal that can be pounded along with some muscle meat.
Better Option: Make your own burgers using 50 - 100% lean meat from the butcher. Add natural fillers like breadcrumbs or mashed chickpeas to make healthier better value burgers. Make your chicken nuggets using 100% British or Irish chicken fillets.
Recipe: Mexican and Chilli Lime Burgers and Real Chicken Goujons
One packet of crisps now and then as a treat is a reasonably healthy choice. One packet a day as eaten by a third of all the children in Britain is far from good for anyone. In fact 6 billion packets are sold in the UK every year. With the mouthfeel and blisspoints created by sugar, fat and salt, we know this is a trio with dangerous consequences to heart, liver and brain.
Better Option: Do not store crisps in the home and limit as you would sweets.
Recipe: Nut Selection
Starbucks and most high street coffee shops offer comforting hot chocolate and whipped cream. With 20 g of saturated fat or 4 teaspoons (which accounts for 67% RDA) in one 'grande' glass, it's hardly worth giving up nearly all your daily fat allocation for.
Better Option: A filter coffee with dribble of low fat milk can be just as comforting. Or enjoy an occasional hot chocolate but leave the whipped cream behind the counter.
Chinese dishes which are described as (a) crispy, are deep fat fried, (b) described as sweet are cooked with quite a large amount of sugar and (c) when served with fried rice add a whole lot of extra calories that are nutritionally poor. Apart from the deep fat starchy food and the high sugar content we have mentioned previously, the extra calories can only help to add on the extra pounds with the burden of all the health issues associated with overweight and obesity. Also watch out for dishes on the Indian takeaway menu described as creamy.
Better Option: Share take away portions and limit purchases of take aways to one or two a year. Choose boiled rice and stay away from dishes that mention the word crispy, fried or creamy.
Recipe: Lentil, Potato and Chickpea Curry or Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry