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If You Have To Eat Junk Food, What Are The Least Unhealthy Options?

By May 21, 2021No Comments

If You Have To Eat Junk Food, What Are The Least Unhealthy Options?Foods high in vitamin B2 | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

One of the best digestive health solutions out there is to eat less junk food.

Of course, you don’t need a naturopathic doctor to tell you that.

But sometimes, it’s hard to avoid.

So with that in mind, we’ve put together this list of junk food items that are the least junky.

Now, some of you might read this article and walk away thinking “oh great, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto said I can eat junk food.”

That’s not at all what we’re saying.

It’s best to avoid most if not all of the foods below if we’re talking strictly from a health perspective.

However, there are some cases where healthy food isn’t an option.

Maybe you’re on a road trip, and the only food available is the junk food at the gas station you just stopped at.

Maybe you’re working junk food out of your diet, but you’re having trouble doing so cold turkey.

Or maybe you just want to be able to enjoy junk food occasionally but want the least junky option.

If so, you might do a little better with one of the options below.

Think of these not as “healthy junk foods,” but “less unhealthy” junk foods.

They’re not as bad as some of the other options out there, but they’re still bad.

Also, keep in mind that when we talk about the following foods, we’re talking about the “junk food” versions, not the homemade versions which tend to be healthier.

That said, let’s take a look.

1. Graham Crackers

If you find yourself reaching for that package of cookies in your pantry, why not try to feed your cravings with a serving of graham crackers?

They’re sweet, they’re crumbly, and they’ve got all the makings of a cookie without being as bad for you.

Why They’re Not So Bad

Graham crackers overall have more fiber and nutrients than most packaged cookies.

This is because graham crackers are made using graham flour, a type of whole wheat flour that holds more nutrients than white flour.

By having more nutritional substance in a graham cracker, you’re able to stay full for longer.

When you feel full you tend to consume fewer calories.

Though it may be a small amount, this could help you if you’re on a weight management journey.

Research on weight loss has found that people who eat whole grains have a higher chance of maintaining their weight loss, in comparison to those who didn’t incorporate whole grains into their meal plans.

Fiber can be a huge help in digesting foods and feeling fuller for longer.

This isn’t to say that all graham crackers are created equal; you still have to make sure you’re eating ones made with whole grain.

To be sure you’re buying the right kind, simply look for the boxes with a whole grain label.

To see the perks of switching to graham crackers, let’s have a look at the nutrients in one graham cracker and your overall suggested daily intake of those ingredients.

Graham crackers tend to come in long, rectangular shapes.

One large rectangle will on average contain about 59 calories, while a large chocolate chip cookie contains 196 calories.

Graham crackers also contain small amounts of riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin, thiamin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.

These nutrients are all essential for a healthy body.

It’s also noteworthy that the fats found in graham crackers can be broken down into healthy and unhealthy variants.

While 15 percent of the fats found in graham crackers are unhealthy, a whopping 85 percent is from healthier fats.

They’re not only a great tasting alternative, but your body will thank you later.

Try to take home graham crackers that are whole grain, and reduced fat for a lower calorie and fat intake.

Why They’re Still Not Great

Graham crackers may help soothe your cookie cravings, but that doesn’t mean you should go overboard with them.

Graham crackers are often made using oils and sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup.

You should always be aware of how much sugar and partially hydrogenated oils you consume.

Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fatty acids, which can disrupt your body’s balance of good and bad cholesterol.

When this balance is off it can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

2. Chocolate

When it comes to snacking, chocolate is a lot of people’s number one choice.

However, there’s a reason that death by chocolate should stay a flavor of ice cream.

Too much chocolate can take a toll on your health.

Chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation, and can even be good for your health in the right quantities.

Which is exactly what we needed to justify keeping it in our lives.

After all, what is life without chocolate?

Why It’s Not So Bad

Aside from the happiness that comes from that creamy chocolate taste, chocolate can have some health benefits such as:

  • Brightening your mood
  • Reducing moderate amounts of stress
  • Acting as a good alternative to other stress relieving crutches, such as alcohol
  • Giving you a mid day boost – some chocolate contains traces of caffeine
  • Lowering your blood pressure – however, you should speak to your doctor before using it as a frequent aid

On top of those positive notes, if you reach for dark chocolate over milk there are even more benefits to gain.

Dark chocolate is high in fiber and iron, it has less sugar than milk chocolate.

It’s also rich in antioxidants such as flavanols, catechins, and polyphenols.

Antioxidants can help slow down the damage that free radicals have on your cells.

Free radicals are linked to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Chocolate also contains trace amounts of other minerals, like magnesium, which can be great for your body.

Magnesium contributes to over 300 enzyme reactions in the body.

Some of these reactions help with regulating blood pressure, improving nerve and muscle function, and aiding with immune system health.

It’s also a mineral that’s quickly depleted in stressful situations.

You can replenish some of that lost magnesium by having a little chocolate.

If all of this sounds too good to be true, that’s because there’s a catch.

You have to eat the right amount of chocolate for it to be beneficial.

Excessive consumption can do more damage than good.

Why It’s Still Not Great

Chocolate contains high levels of sugar, fat, and calories.

Especially if you’re indulging in cheap chocolate, which has heaps more of these components due to filler ingredients.

One small chocolate bar can contain hundreds of calories.

If consumed excessively, those calories can contribute to obesity, which has its own set of risk factors for your health.

This isn’t to say that carrying extra weight automatically makes you unhealthy, it simply means that you could be at a higher risk for some health conditions.

The high sugar content in chocolate can also accelerate tooth decay, and eating caffeinated chocolate can disrupt your sleep patterns.

3. Sweet Potato Fries

Fries are a common comfort food in North America, where drive thrus are abundant.

Salty snackers love them for their high salt content, and their texture.

Nevertheless, if you find yourself ordering fries more than usual we’d suggest giving sweet potato fries a chance.

Why They’re Not So Bad

Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, which helps you feel full by taking up space in your stomach.

Fiber is your friend when it comes to digestive health and weight management.

Sweet potatoes are also jam packed with vitamins and minerals.

These highly nutritious root vegetables contain such nutrients as:

Vitamin D, which helps manage chronic fatigue, depression, thyroid function, and is created when we take in enough sunlight.

Iron, which helps to manage stress, immune function, protein metabolism, as well as red and white blood cell production.

Vitamin C, which is essential for fighting off viruses, creating collagen, aiding tooth and bone development, stress relief, and blood cell formation.

Magnesium, which keeps muscles, nerves, and bones healthy while keeping stress levels down.

Vitamin B6, which helps to reduce chemicals such as homocysteine that play a factor in degenerative diseases.

Potassium, which reduces swelling, helps with kidney function, regulates your heartbeat, and helps to regulate the nervous system.

Why They’re Still Not Great

The issue with sweet potato fries isn’t with the sweet potato itself, but the cooking method that turns them into fries.

They’re fried in unhealthy oils and heavily seasoned which adds extra fat and carbohydrates.

When buying fries from a fast food restaurant, unhealthy oils and seasoning will always be an issue, regardless of the type of potato.

If you were to prepare them at home by baking them and using healthy oils, sweet potato fries could be much healthier.

However, in this context, we’re looking at them in their fast food form.

If you have no control over the cooking methods, then we still suggest opting for sweet potato fries over regular ones.

They’ll have a similar amount of unnecessary fat, calories, and sodium, but they’ll also have higher amounts of vitamins and fiber.

So while you won’t necessarily be lowering your carb and calorie intake, you can at least up to your nutrient intake.

4. Tortilla Chips

Who doesn’t love a bag of chips while binging your favorite tv shows?

We know they’re bad for us, but once you’ve had one you just can’t stop.

If cutting chips out altogether isn’t an option for you, try picking tortilla chips over potato.

Here are some factors to consider the next time you’re in the chip aisle.

Why They’re Not So Bad

When compared to potato chips, tortilla chips are lower in fat and calories.

Especially if you opt for organic tortilla chips.

One of the main criticisms of tortilla chips is that some brands come from genetically modified corn.

However, if that’s a concern for you, you can reach for a bag of non GMO tortilla chips and feel a little better about indulging in your cravings.

Another major benefit of tortilla chips is that they pair so well with dips.

If you choose to pair your tortilla chips with a healthy dip, like homemade guacamole, you’ll feel full quicker, and eat fewer chips overall.

Why They’re Still Not Great

Nutritionally, there isn’t much of a difference between potato chips and corn chips because of how they’re prepared.

Most of the naturally occurring nutrients in potatoes and corn are stripped in the cooking process.

When fried, corn is stripped of most of its nutritional fiber, potassium, and protein.

In their place is added salt and trans fat.

Trans fat is a kind of vegetable oil that’s been treated with hydrogen molecules.

When this happens the chemical structure of vegetable oil is altered, and this can cause problems.

Excessive trans fat consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes, inflammation, disrupted insulin levels, and cardiovascular disease.

Trans fat is abundant in tortilla chips and potato chips alike.

On top of this, there are often unnecessary, or harmful, additives and calories.

Especially if the corn chips are coloured or seasoned.

the healthiest junk foods options availableFoods high in vitamin B2 | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

5. Oatmeal Cookies

If you had to choose a cookie to indulge in, you might want to go for oatmeal.

It may be the next best thing to a chocolate chip cookie.

Why They’re Not So Bad

Oatmeal cookies are made with whole grain oats, which contain both complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

Both of these components give your body a slow release of energy, which prevents spikes in blood sugar levels, and keeps you fuller for longer periods.

It’s even better if your cookies have raisins.

Raisins are a naturally good source of phytochemicals that can enhance your immune system.

Why They’re Still Not Great

Oatmeal cookies have minimal fiber and high amounts of sugar.

The recommended amount of dietary fiber for an adult is between 25 and 30 grams a day, and the recommended amount of sugar is roughly 6 teaspoons.

One average sized oatmeal cookie contains less than 1 gram of fiber and over 3 teaspoons of sugar.

One oatmeal cookie contains roughly half the recommended amount of sugar that an adult should consume in one day.

That’s in one cookie.

How often do you sit down and only eat one cookie?

While they’re healthier for you than a regular cookie, the difference is marginal.

Book An Appointment With Annex Naturopathic

Have any questions about how you can make your diet healthier?

Feel free to contact us so we can find what dietary changes could be beneficial to your goals.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic
800 Bathurst St Suite 301,
Toronto, ON M5R 3M8


Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND