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healthy swaps for junk food

Healthier Swaps for Junk Food Snacks

healthy swaps for junk foodEvery parent knows the pull that lollies have over kids, right? Kids love to put on the pressure about lollies. It might be children's birthday parties, or even from the grandparents. A little sugar on a special occasion isn't going to hurt; just let them live a little! But, like appliances these days, they just don't make 'em like they used to! It's not just the sugar that's worrying us any more, it's the dozens of synthetic food additives they pack into each brightly coloured lolly, cheesy flavoured chip and kernel of butter flavoured popcorn that makes them toxic, and addictive. What do you think when you read numbers on a packet, instead of ingredients?  Are numbers less invasive? Does Thickener 1420 sound less scary than starch acetate esterified with acetic anhydride? Or does Colour Blue 1 or 133 sound less worrisome than coal tar derived synthetic dye? You betcha it does. So just the fact that you see numbers instead of ingredients can certainly set the alarm bells ringing. Of course, not all numbers are bad, but you do need to learn which numbers are which. Other warning signs include 'low-fat'. Low fat generally means that the fat has been replaced with sugar or a sugar alternative for flavour and a good mouthfeel. So why is the occasional lolly such a bad thing?  The World Health Organisation recommends reducing our sugar intake to less than 5% of our total daily energy intake - that's just 6 teaspoons a day. If you've seen That Sugar Film, you'll realise how easy it is to eat more than that just at breakfast.  If you haven't seen the film, I recommend that you do. You'll never look at sugar in the same way again. As the guidelines for sugar intake have been reduced, watch out for 'sugar-free' alternatives, as the sugar has likely been replaced with something else just as bad (or with not enough research to know just how bad it is). Take Haribo's sugarless gummy bears for example, whose infamous reviews on Amazon left consumers shaking their heads. Haribo's sugar replacement is something called Lycasin, consisting mainly of maltitol, a sugar alcohol that is not fully digested by the body. Instead it ferments in the gut and can lead to some pretty disastrous outcomes. Or hilarious, depending on your sense of humour. It's not just the sugar. Artificial colours, flavours, additives - they're just not part of a healthy diet. OK, no store bought junk food. What are some alternatives?  Well I'm glad you asked! Getting creative in the kitchen is one of my favourite things. Here's a few ideas:
  • Although I don't do the Paleo diet, there's some great recipes out there that you'll find if you google 'paleo lollies.' I made some of these for my kids, and they loved them. I used a little of bit of honey for some sweetness, and I made mine with fresh strawberries. They were delicious.
  • Ditch the flavoured yoghurts for a plain, natural yoghurt and add a spoonful of home made jam or puréed fruit instead.
  • This recipe for fairy dust (dried strawberry) can sit in an airtight container in your pantry once dried  and make a fun addition to any healthy muffin, biscuit or even fairy bread that you make. If you're really dedicated, experiment with other fruits and vegetables for a wider variety of colours.
  • Make 'ice cream' with frozen bananas. I've got some bananas sitting in my freezer just waiting for me to churn them up, and I'll be having a go at mixing them with cacao to make the chocolate banana ice cream suggested in this post.
  • Frankfurts are a go-to party treat, but really that's because they're easy finger food that fills them up. If you need to be convinced about why hot dogs shouldn't be invited to your next party, watch how hot dogs are made. Some home made meat balls are a great replacement (albeit slightly messier). You can try your hand at making your own home made tomato sauce - tomatoes are acidic and can be preserved in a basic water bath canner ahead of time.
  • Make some bliss balls. There's heaps of recipe ideas on Pinterest, and they're super easy to make. Get the kids to help out, and they'll be much more likely to eat them.
And if you don't have the time? Here are some direct swaps. 
  • Supermarkets are stocking organic corn chips to directly replace your Doritos or other crisps. You'll still need to read the labels, because organic doesn't mean anything unless it's certified organic.
  • Swapping milk chocolate for dark chocolate may not go completely unnoticed, but if you do it gradually by starting with the lower percentage of cacao, eventually their taste buds will adjust. This does take time, though. A friend of mine thought they'd get tricky by putting a 90% cacao dark chocolate into an 75% dark chocolate packaging. It did not go down well!
  • Keep a popcorn machine in the cupboard and make your own instead of microwave popcorn for a weekend family treat. Involve the kids in experimenting with different flavours, chances are you will have butter, salt, cinnamon or maple syrup in the cupboard, too. There's heaps more great popcorn ideas on this post from Organic Authority.
  • Drinks needn't be a problem either. You'll find that kids who are running around outside really just need to quench their thirst, they certainly don't crave soft drinks unless they've become accustomed to it. If you do need to make 'special' water, you just infuse your water with fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices or any edible flowers you have on hand. The flavour combinations for infused water are endless, and if you get the kids to help choose the flavours, they'll be much more likely to drink them, too. The favourites at our place are strawberry and mint, lemon and basil, and orange and mint.
What are your favourite healthy swaps for junk food? Share in the comments below! Get the latest posts straight to your inbox every week!  
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