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    Healthy alternatives to unhealthy food & snacks

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      Selection of fruit and nuts

      We know that it can be tempting to indulge in treats and over-eat. A chocolate bar here, a burger there – what’s the harm?

      While there’s no problem with a bit of indulgence from time to time, regularly eating unhealthy food can cause a whole host of health issues, including heart conditions, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

      The NHS advises that within a healthy, balanced diet, a man needs around 10,500kJ (2,500Kcal) a day to maintain his weight. For a woman, that figure is around 8,400kJ (2,000Kcal) a day. 

      If you’re not a fan of carrot sticks and celery, here are some healthier alternatives to some unhealthy foods. Swapping one for the other can enable you to carry on eating the same kinds of things, while doing your health a favour.

      Here are our 10 healthy alternatives to unhealthy food:

      Replace all chocolate with dark chocolate

      If you make sure you’re eating organic dark chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate, you’ll find it’s much better for you. Dark chocolate is actually quite nutritious and contains fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium – all of which are good for you. It’s also full of antioxidants, which help keep you young.

      Replace chips with sweet potato wedges

      It’s time to bin the chip-shop chips and opt for something healthier and, dare we say it, tastier. Sweet potatoes have high levels of beta-carotene and have been proven to raise levels of vitamin A in our blood. They’re also full of vitamins B6, C and D. Vitamin B6 may help reduce levels of degenerative diseases and heart attacks.

      Replace ice cream with frozen yoghurt

      Ice cream is essentially churned, frozen fat and sugar. Frozen yogurt is a lot lower in both and contains probiotics to help our digestive system. However, it is still quite high in calories and you cut out any health benefits if you go and cover it in melted toffee. Try pairing it with fresh fruit or nuts as a sweet and tasty replacement for your dessert.

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      Replace beer with spirits or wine

      Here’s a scary fact – drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year or the same as eating 221 doughnuts. A pint of beer can have around 180 calories in it while a single measure of spirits has just 61 calories. Match that with a soda water and some fresh lime juice and you’ve got a less fattening alternative. Even red wine has fewer calories, at 159 a glass. 

      Replace hamburgers with chicken burger

      Your standard burger can have around 350 calories in it. However, if you were to replace this with a grilled chicken breast, it’d be just 220 calories –and that’s for a large 150g piece of chicken.

      Replace butter with margarine

      While debates on the health benefits of butter versus margarine often bring up the various additives in margarine, by buying a good quality, olive oil spread and using it when baking, you can make your cupcakes light as air as well as being a bit healthier.

      Replace pizza with pitta pockets

      Layers of cheese, thick dough and salty sausages are all tasty but not very healthy. Instead of ordering a pizza, why not make some homemade pitta pockets. Use warmed, wholewheat pitta breads and fill them with spicy chicken and salad for a healthier dinner.

      Replace crisps with popcorn

      Crisps are full of salt and saturated fat and, as they are often put out in a bowl, it’s hard to judge how much you’re eating. Replace them with lightly salted or plain popcorn for a healthier snack. It’s a good idea to buy plain popcorn and cook it yourself so you can measure how much salt you want to add. Popcorn is also full of anti-oxidants, loaded with fibre, and low in calories.

      Replace sweets with dried fruit

      Most of us have a sweet tooth, but high-sugar sweets have little to no nutritional value. Replace them with healthier dried fruits like mango, apple or cherry. For a super-healthy alternative, try dried goji berries, which are full of nutrients.

      Replace cake with banana bread

      Most cakes aren’t particular healthy, but if you want an option that has some benefits try a whole wheat, organic banana bread. It’s full of fibre and the whole wheat contains potassium, magnesium and zinc.

      VideoGP by LloydsPharmacy



      Authors and editors

      • Written by

        Dr Anup Jethwa
        GMC number: 7138282
        Date published: 16th Mar 2015

      • Edited and updated by

        Dr Jean Wong
        GMC number: 6132403
        Date reviewed: 1st Apr 2021

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