Junk Food, Why Can’t I Quit You?

Antonis Achilleos 

We get it: Junk food is delish. After all, food manufacturers engineer it to be that way. They use flavor-enhancing chemicals and just the right amount of sugar and salt to get you to devour the whole bag—and still want more! But though a little junk is OK in an otherwise healthy day, too much can wreck your mood, your energy level, even your athletic performance. That’s because most junk food is skimpy on the protein, fiber, and healthy fats that give you long-lasting energy.

To help you find equally delicious snacks with staying power, we asked teens for their junk food faves, then figured out how to better satisfy their cravings. Get excited to try our creations!  

The junk food fave: Ice Cream

  The Fix :   Creamy Fronanas. In the morning, peel and slice up one ripe banana and put it on a plate in the freezer. When you get home from school, you can throw the slices in the blender with a tablespoon of peanut butter or a handful of strawberries. It seriously tastes just like ice cream!

 The Payoff:  There are a mind-blowing 10 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of cookies-and-cream ice cream, which will send you into a post-sugar slump after eating it. But rich and creamy bananas have natural sugar that won’t lead to an energy crash—plus 3 grams of fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer. (Bonus: Bananas are loaded with the mineral potassium, which can help prevent cramps when you exercise!)

The junk food fave: Doritos

 The Fix:  Crispy Quesadilla. Pop a whole-wheat tortilla into the toaster oven until lightly browned. Top with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar and fat-free refried beans, then heat the whole thing for a minute, or until the cheese is melted. Fold in half, cut into wedges, and dip into salsa.

 The Payoff:  Doritos are full of artificial flavors, fake food dyes, and multiple flavor enhancers. You’ll be more satisfied by real food. Actual cheese is rich in calcium and also protein, so you can eat less but still feel full. And surprise: Salsa counts as a serving of vegetables!

 

The junk food fave: Kit Kat

 The Fix: Chocolate-Drizzled Apple Nachos. Slice an apple and arrange the slices on a plate. In a small dish, microwave 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips for 10 seconds. Stir and drizzle over the apple slices, then top with granola or shredded coconut. 

 The Payoff:  Candy bars offer little besides calories. These apple nachos may taste like dessert, but they contain fiber for fullness and some vitamin C, which helps your body fight off colds. Plus the peanut butter’s protein can help rebuild your muscles after exercise!

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