Getting healthy — or staying healthy — can be tough. Everywhere we look, there is a new snack or actual meal that looks and tastes amazing. Unfortunately, it’s usually junk food.  And when we give up the junk food for a new diet, things can start to suck pretty fast. Our mood gets on the fast track to not-so-happy and all we can think about is the junk food we’re missing. It can be tough to find something to fill the slot vacated by said crap food, and when mid-afternoon rolls around, it gets downright impossible to pass up that piece of candy or bag of chips. Luckily, there are many options available to help us soldier through. Here are just a few of the foods that can take the place of the junk…and keep your diet in check.

Rice Cakes

Yeah, it may make you feel like a dandy, but rice cakes with a little something added on top can get you the “junk” fix you need and bridge one meal to the other with ease. We prefer adding a thin layer of peanut butter on top, but fruit or a low-calorie jelly will also work. Rice cakes can come plain — which are kind of bland –or in caramel, apple-cinnamon, cheese-flavored, and various other varieties. The calories stay roughly the same and you will feel like you are getting some junk, when in fact, you are not overloading yourself with as many empty calories.

Whipped Cream

Technically, whipped cream is junk, but there are lots of brands of the good stuff out there that offer sugar free, lactose free, and low calorie options. We don’t scoop it up and eat it plain, but we use it as a topper. Strawberries, bananas, peaches, blueberries, or any other fruit tastes a thousand times better when whipped cream is added on top. It’ll taste like a dessert, but you’ll be getting a good portion of fruit and 100% satisfaction all rolled into one wonderful package.

Trail Mix

The classic trail mix can be a tough bag to master. We always insist on making our own because all the mixtures out there usually have something we don’t want/need in them. Some have M&M’s in them, which tastes great, but kills the non-junk food portion of our diet. Others have those things in them that look suspiciously like rat feces. No one has been able to tell us what those things are. So, mix your own batch. Get some assorted nuts, raisons (or other dried fruit), and maybe some carob chips or yogurt chips if you have the sweet tooth. Add a little salt or sugar substitute depending on your taste. Keep portions in sandwich bags to get you through the day. But, as with any junk food substitute, don’t overindulge.

Turkey Sausage

Sausage is pretty tasty. There’s nothing better than a massive piece of pork for breakfast. Unfortunately, it is also the building block for a heart attack. We recently turned to turkey sausage and never looked back. The great thing about this food is that it can work it’s way into many other dishes, too. Aside from being a great breakfast side item, it can be chopped up and sprinkled onto a homemade whole wheat pizza, or distributed in a salad to add some meat to the concoction. Another thing we like to do is mix it into an egg white omelette. And everyone knows that an omelette can be eaten at any meal. you’ll never miss the greasy omelettes you used to order out.

Organic Chips

Yes, we know. It sounds gross and just plain dumb. We thought the same thing when we tried them. But all these organic chips out there aren’t half bad. Veggie chips and the new saturated-fat-free potato chips are great substitutes for the crap we used to eat. There are also some solid corn chip options out there that trim away calories without killing all the flavor. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a wide variety of options, but most grocery stores are also starting to stock these items, too. Test a few of them out and decide which one will replace your daily intake of Funions. Of course, not all of them are low-cal, but they are ten times better for you than the junk you usually eat.

Whole Wheat Stuff

We can’t say enough about whole wheat products. It’s been proven that it’s way better for you than white flour and we personally think it tastes better. Stay away from the bread, but pick up some of the crackers and tortillas. The crackers are great with peanut butter, but you can also make mini-sandwiches out of them with cheese and sandwich meat for a quick mid-afternoon fix. Crackers are great to kill hunger pains instantly and they don’t bring the filth that junk food does. For more of a prepared snack, use the tortilla to make a “sandwich” or even just spread some peanut butter on it for a between-meal snack.

Granola Bars

It’s no secret that granola bars aren’t the fat-free perfect snack they used to be billed as.  But they are much better for you than the candy bar so many of you down every day. Granola bars have more flavor options than even candy bars do, so pick your poison. Even the higher calorie ones are going to give you some nutrients that candy bars will not. One granola bar on the run in the morning can fill the void when you don’t have time for breakfast, and one at night when you find yourself wanting to eat yourself into a coma will save you from adding on some extra pounds. Look at the packaging carefully and try to select a granola that is lower in sugar and calories. The chewy ones rock, so we’d focus on those.

Lattes

Coffee is a wonderful, wonderful liquid. We’d bathe in it if we could. Okay, we have bathed in it, but that’s for another article. Coffee itself is pretty low in calories, but it’s all the stuff people put in them that start to add up. And they keep drinking cup after cup. We decided to turn to the coffee relative — the latte. Lattes pack some foam and milk (we prefer soy) and fills you up quicker than 4 cups of coffee with cream will. Grab one in the morning and use skim milk or soy milk and don’t use real sugar to sweeten it. Grab one in the afternoon to bridge meals — or pack one with you and warm it up at work. Whichever way you like it.

Smoothies

Sticking to the beverage side of things, let’s talk smoothies. They can be great junk substitutes instead of milk shakes or dessert. On some occasions, they can even be meal substitutes. You can pick them up at thousands of places these days, but you can also make your own smoothie at home. You will need a blender — duh — and some ice. Then decide what ingredients you want to add. Fruits like strawberries or bananas are top choices. Some skim milk/soy milk, water, and a sugar substitute also make great additions. Play around with some mixtures and find what you like best. Make only enough to fill one large tumbler — or else you’ll be packing away too many calories in one sitting.

Gum

There’s a reason you always see celebs/in-shape people working their jaws. Gum. It doesn’t provide you with many nutrients — unless you have some illegal gum from the South Pacific region — but what it does do is kill the urge for munching on some junk. Obviously, go for the sugar free gum and pick a flavor (despite it being artificial) that you can tolerate. Toss in a couple sticks of gum and chew away. Your craving for Peppermint Patties will disappear and your waistline will remain svelte. Or at least the size it is now.

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