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Healthy snacking tips: 'Unjunk Your Junk Food'

July 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When you just need something to nibble on, you probably turn to an easy snack that's also highly processed. But there are healthier choices that are just as easy. We'll show you how to take the junk out of your junk food.

The Institute of Food Technologist says nearly half of America snacks twice a day and seven out of 10 snacks are eaten at home with most snackers looking for an energy boost.

And while parents say they want nutritious snacks, nearly 23 percent of America's grocery bill is spent on processed foods and sweets, making it the single biggest food category.

In the book "Unjunk Your Junk Food" by Andrea Donsky, Randy Boyer and Lisa Tsakkos, the premise goes that cleaning up your diet goes well beyond looking for sugar, fat, and calories. Instead, scrutinize the ingredients list for those scary sounding additives that you don't recognize and can't pronounce.

From organic chocolate cream cookies to Trans fat-free chocolate bars, some treats seem healthier. They still offer similar components like sugar, fat, and calories, but artificial additives and colors are missing. So are they the answer?

"What I've seen in looking at the real processed food and supposedly the healthier version is that the healthier version usually isn't that much healthier," said nutrititionist JJ Virgin.

Virgin said if they offer the taste you're looking for, fine. But if that isn't the case, you might find yourself eating more.

"When you're eating something and it doesn't taste as good, I believe you eat more in an effort to make up for it," Virgin said.

So instead, try making your own. For example, get some dark chocolate and some almond butter to create a nutty chocolate treat.

"Get a couple dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of nut butter, and that's such a better choice," said Virgin.

In lieu of ice cream, Virgin said to try Greek style yogurt with some berries, chopped almonds and cinnamon.

Since it's hard to stop eating crunchy carbs, go for flavorful hummus and dip away with the crudite.

If by chance you want a baked good, make your own with whole food ingredients and follow the three bite rule.

"Have the best one you can. Have three bites, enjoy it, guilt-free and get gone," said Virgin.


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