What foods do you know aren't good for you but you crave them anyway?
You may have thought of a dessert, carb-heavy pasta noodles, or potentially nothing at all (oh c'mon now, honesty never hurt anyone). Chances are, although we know certain things are unhealthy we still reach for them from time to time, simply because we want that taste badly enough to sacrifice a little bit.
However, there are healthier alternatives to these foods that have a very similar taste but with less of the processed carbs, more vitamins and nutrients, and/or less of the calories. Below are some of the best substitutions I've discovered, featuring explorations of the health benefits and marketing tactics the companies that sell some of these products use to emphasize that idea of "healthier."
Any other suggestions? Share in the comments!
Trader Joe's Watermelon Jerky -- Alternative to Fruity Candies
Marketing analysis: At first thought, the term "watermelon jerky" may throw you off, and possibly even gross you out. Though, the soft watermelon-themed colors of the packaging and immediate clarification as "dried watermelon" reassure you this food is nothing to be intimidated by. In big letters as the first word most eyes would land upon also is the great big buzzword "organic". In just the simplistic front display, it's clear the packaging does all it can to ease your hesitation and lure you in.
Benefits analysis: This snack is sugary sweet to a point where it's surprising that the sole ingredient is watermelon and no sugar is added. With one ingredient and all natural sugar, watermelon jerky is therefore very healthy, and because it tastes just like candy I find it perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth who's looking to cut down on processed food and calories. In fact, one of these medium-sized packages (which I've found can definitely be eaten in several sittings) is only 210 calories.
Cacao Nibs -- Alternative to Chocolate Chips
Benefits analysis: As the rawest form of chocolate without the added milk, cream, and sugar, this is the best way to get the antioxidants and natural acids and fats that cacao beans offer. I recommend getting the kind with 1g of sugar per serving, or else eating a plain handful quite honestly tastes disgusting, but cacao nibs are bitter and nutty and a perfect substitution for chocolate chips when baking or needing something to sprinkle onto smoothie bowls that has some crunch. Look for a brand that has 25 calories per teaspoon serving.
See here for some more benefits of cacao nibs according to Web MD.
Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi -- Alternative to Traditional Gnocchi Pasta
Marketing analysis: The giant, mouthwatering image displayed across the front of the package is sure to draw pasta-loving consumers in. In fact, there's not much else to look at other than a piping hot bowl of gnocchi. There doesn't seem, however, to be much else in terms of marketing strategy at play on this front side, though it's important to note the light green color of the top and bottom borders may serve a role in linking the idea of natural food to this item.
Benefits analysis: This gnocchi alternative tastes SO good and just like it would if cauliflower were not used instead of the higher-carb potato.
Frozen Grapes with Lemon Juice -- Alternative to Fruity Candies
Benefits analysis: With the steps of putting washed grapes in a plastic bag, shaking lemon juice into the bag, and freezing it for at least three hours, making this snack could not be any simpler! I'd even go so far as to say it tastes like a sweeter, better Sour Patch candy, and it's literally only fruit. While some advance anticipation of this craving is required due to the long freezing process, there aren't enough good things to say about how tasty yet healthy it is. In fact if I were you, I'd start making some right now.
Mini Skinny Cow Ice Cream Cones -- Alternative to Ice Cream
Marketing analysis: The colors and fonts used on the box appear more feminine, and it's perhaps a good decision that the old image of a cow with a tape measure around its small waist is a thing of past designs. It's clear the wording is also used to persuade, as it uses elegant descriptive words such as "light," "topped," and "rich" as well as some humor in what the company calls the flavor, "not fudging around chocolate fudge." The box has some personality to it, which is definitely part of the appeal.
Benefits analysis: Mini Skinny Cow ice cream cones feature the same taste you know and probably love with a lot fewer calories. I actually find them more fun than a simple bowl of ice cream since there's a drizzle of sauce and a waffle cone with chocolate at the bottom. I'd call them healthier rather than healthy, but this is a great way to spoil your sweet tooth for only 100 calories.
Miracle Noodles -- Alternative to Traditional Pasta Noodles
Marketing analysis: The first thing that jumps out from the packaging in solid, bold letters is a laundry list of health benefits. The label certainly points out why this product is called "miracle" noodles! It's healthy and restriction-friendly and wants people to know it. The cover is clean, simple, and uses the same strategy as the cauliflower gnocchi by using green as a nod to nature and convey a natural feel to this product.
Benefits analysis: One thing's for sure -- these noodles really are miraculous. Gluten free? Cholesterol free? Zero calories? If you're worried about feeling full, there's natural plant fiber that will still leave you feeling like you ate a meal. From experience, they lack flavor and so should be paired with a flavorful sauce, spices, and/or vegetables, but this is an excellent pasta substitute. If you think about it, the only calories in the dish you make with them comes from what you put in, which is pretty cool.
Kale Chips -- Alternative to Chips
Benefits analysis: Kale is a true superfood - low in calories and dense in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C... the list goes on. I know these aren't actually chips, but they pack the crunch and can seriously kick a craving, plus the steps to make them couldn't be easier (you can buy them packaged at the store too, but they're better homemade). Simply wash your kale, get rid of the stems, rip into pieces, mix in apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. They're delicious and so good for you!
A high schooler with a love of food. See the My Story page to find out more.
"Time to eat smart."