The Junk Food Jones: Retraining Your Palate with 12 Real Food Alternatives

Junk Food Snacks Fritos

While I may strive to eat healthy, it isn’t always easy. I still have sudden cravings for Fritos or frozen pizza, as buried taste memories re-surge from my heedless junk food days. I still have my moments of devouring a bag of potato chips or a recent favorite, corn nuts, but overall, I try hard to avoid such snacks. Still, we all sometimes need a snack. Question is: what should we be snacking on?

Here are 12 real food alternatives to falling prey to the “junk food jones.” Some of these may seem high in fat, and they are, such as olives, nuts or cheese. However, the idea is quality not quantity. Enjoy the good things in life, but within reason, and you’ll find you are more than satisfied.

The trick is to keep real food snacks around, or bring them with you, so you’re not tempted with impulse buys near the register when you’re filling up at the gas station or buying office supplies. It’s all about retraining your palette and your habits.

Mixed Nuts

1. Nuts: Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews

I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a bag of roasted almonds in my bag at all times. Yum!

Orange fruit

2. Fresh Fruit

I’ve been really enjoying oranges recently, especially tangerines. Other easy fresh fruit snacks are grapes, apples or pears.

Dried Fruit

3. Dried fruit

Great on the go.

Vegetables Hummus

4. Vegetables with hummus

An excellent source of fiber all around.

Rice Cake with Peanut Butter

5. Rice cakes with natural peanut butter or almond butter

Or celery with peanut butter. Remember the old days of “ants-on-a-log?”

Manchego Cheese

6. Cheese

Yes. Really. But good cheese! I’m still a believer that a few slices of cheese are better than eating a bag of potato chips. Try eating with rye crackers, thinly sliced, toasted pain au levain bread or simply on its own. My current favorites are aged gouda or goat gouda, gruyere, and manchego.


7. Olives

Greek olives are nice to have on hand, especially when you’re eating cheese. You may need to shop around a bit to find your favorite style and olives can vary in quality depending on where you buy them from.

Roasted sweet potato, asparagus

8. Roasted vegetables

I’m a big fan of sweet potato fries. Mind you, when I say sweet potato fries, I don’t mean the ones at the pub down the street. Oven roast your own with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Delicious! Asparagus, which is currently in season, is another great option. Eat the spears like fries. Or, make a roasted beet salad to have on hand with onions and feta cheese.


9. Straight up avocado

With salt. What’s not to love.

Granola Bars

10. Natural granola or fruit bars

Try 18 Rabbits or Larabars.

Yogurt, granola and fruit

11. The combination. Plain yogurt with granola, fruit and nuts

This is like dessert! Try experimenting with different fruit combinations or adding shredded coconut or a dusting of ground flax seed.

Dark chocolate

12. Dark chocolate

Instead of reaching for cookies, try this alternative. A few squares of dark chocolate are inimitably satisfying.

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