Do visions of sugar plums—and ice cream, and French fries, and brownies—dance through your head all night long? Is no meal complete without a sweet ending? If so, you may be a junk food junkie, and it could be endangering your health. You probably already know that overloading on added sugars can set you on a course toward developing diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and even heart failure. What you may not realize is that you don’t have to deprive yourself of yummy foods to be healthy. Even the most hardcore junk food junkie can enjoy nutritious fare and still satisfy a sweet tooth—or a salt craving. Here’s how.
BEFORE: Let’s take a look at a Junk Food Junkie’s dream meal plan.
Breakfast: Belgian waffles topped with syrup, vanilla ice cream, and sprinkles served with hot coffee, with plenty of sugar and cream
Lunch: Fried chicken tenders, large French fries, large cola
Snack: Chocolate bar
Dinner: 2 slices of pepperoni pizza, large cola
Snack: Large bowl of potato chips and 3 large chocolate chip cookies
This menu is chock-full of indulgences, racking up unhealthy levels of sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and of course calories!
AFTER: This improved meal plan still delivers delicious meals, but is gentler on your waistline and your overall health.
Breakfast: 1 large 100% whole grain waffle topped with fresh strawberry slices and a dollop of low-fat whipped cream, plus 1 large coffee flavored with vanilla almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Lunch: Baked chicken breast breaded with 100% whole wheat bread crumbs along with baked sweet potato fries, a serving of string beans and a large seltzer mixed with 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice
Snack: Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt KIND Bar
Dinner: Homemade pizza on 100% whole grain dough topped with fresh bruschetta, part skim mozzarella cheese, and 1 ounce of turkey pepperoni
Snack: 3 cups air popped popcorn sprinkled with one tablespoon Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt mixed with 1 cup of frozen berries
This improved meal plan not only cuts back on the junky stuff—calories, sodium, fat and added sugars—but it also adds key nutrients that improve general health and provide long-lasting energy. With whole grains, including popcorn, we boost our fiber intake. With the KIND bar, we get heart-healthy, protein-packed nuts. And with the baked sweet potato fries and strawberries, we get hits of vitamins A and C. These simple, smart changes transform a calorie bomb with few nutrients, to a sensible, healthy, energizing meal plan that is also tasty and satisfying!