5 healthier junk food choices

By: Canadian Living

Author: Canadian Living


5 healthier junk food choices

By: Canadian Living

There's good news for junk food eaters. Some of your favourite snack foods actually have some nutritional value. Below, dietitian Leslie Beck shares some tips for making the smartest possible choices.

"Everyone needs a break from their diet of fish and steamed vegetables," Beck said. "But...instead of going for the worst of the worst, let's go for the best of the worst."

1. Pizza
It's not exactly a low-fat food, Beck said, but it does have considerably less fat, sodium and calories than a cheeseburger with fries. And there are some nutritional benefits.

"The cheese gives you some calcium, although you're getting a bit of saturated fat and sodium. Tomato sauce gives you vitamins A and C and the cancer-fighting chemical lycopene. Top it with vegetables and you're getting extra fibre."

According to Beck, the best way to order your pizza is: thin crust, whole wheat if you can, half the cheese, either chicken breast or ham, lots of vegetables and order a salad to go along with it.

"Don't have a pizza-only meal because you'll end up eating too much," she said.

2. French fries
"If you go into a fast-food joint, usually a large order of fries is going to cost you 550 calories, 25 grams of fat and anywhere up to 850 milligrams of sodium," Beck explained. "And they're deep-fried often in hydrogenated vegetable oil so you're getting up to six grams of trans fat, that unhealthy fat that increases your LDL cholesterol."

The solution? Make your own fries at home. Bake them in the oven or look for frozen brands that are low in fat - many don't have trans fat as well - at your local grocery store or supermarket. Remember to read the nutritional labels! If you want to try something a little different at home and you're looking for a boost of beta carotene and fibre, take a sweet potato, cut it into slices, brush with canola oil and bake in the oven.

Page 1 of 2 - more healthy junk food choices on page 2.

3. Hamburgers
Less is more here, Beck said. As soon as you go for the cheese, double meat, bacon and extra sauces, you're looking at plenty more fat and calories.

"For example, the Burger King double whopper with cheese has 1,070 calories and 70 grams of fat - more fat than the average woman should eat in a day - and 1,500 milligrams of sodium," she said. "Go simple single patty."

4. Potato chips
When it comes to a fat standpoint, Beck said that any kind of chip deep-fried in any type of oil is high in fat. Ten chips usually give you about 110 calories and seven grams of fat. But who stops at just 10?

"There are more and more brands that aren't deep-fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil that are trans fat free," Beck said. "Or you can go baked - baked tortilla chips, baked potato chips - for no fat."

As for acrylamide - the chemical being studied for possible links to cancer - it will be formed from high-heat cooking, whether it's baking or deep-frying. Beck did note that studies have yet to conclusively prove the cancer link.

Her suggestion? Go for the trans fat free chips.

5. Ice cream
"As soon as you start choosing things with candy or pieces of cookie in it or peanut butter, you're getting a lot of calories and saturated fat, the kind of fat that increases the risk for heart disease."

Beck suggests going for plain vanilla, which has less than half the fat and calories or sorbets and fruit ices that have no fat.

"Just watch your portion size," she warned. "Because it still all adds up in terms of sugar."

Read about 5 kitchen tools that will help you lose weight.

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5 healthier junk food choices