Alternatives to 7 worst (favorite) foods

LOS ANGELES "These are not foods that are stuck on a shelf somewhere that you might eat once in a while, these are foods that Americans regularly consume," said dietitian Patrica Bannan.

Health expert Patricia Bannan was among hundreds of dietitians asked to rate the biggest "food felonies" in the American diet.

The top seven? Soda and sugary drinks, chips, candy, processed baked goods, sugary cereals and luncheon meat.

If some of your favorite foods are on the list, don't panic: There are easy alternatives that make a big difference health-wise, while keeping taste intact.

Take sugary drinks for example.

"Tea is a wonderful alternative. You can sugar it yourself, you can use agave that doesn't spike your blood sugar," said Bannan.

Then there's our chip habit. Even with a suffering economy the potato chip market has grown 22 percent.

"A wonderful chip alternative is pistachios," said Bannan. "They're crunchy, they're packed with nutrition you get more than 30 different vitamins and minerals and the shells give you a visual cue to eat less."

Plenty of good news in the cereal aisle. While candy-coated cereals are everywhere there are quite a few good alternatives to choose from.

"You want to look for one with at least 5 grams of fiber, no more than 5 grams of sugar," said Bannan.

When it comes to candy, go for chocolate -- the darker the better.

"Go for a dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa," said Bannan. "It's going to have half the sugar of a milk chocolate. It has such a rich bitter flavor then you often eat less."

Try making baked goods at home with trans-fat-free spreads rather than buy a bakery version. Yes, it's time-consuming, but store-bought versions often use trans-fatty margarines or butter.

At the market, look for new alternatives to salami and bologna. One company has created deli meats that are low-sodium and preservative-free.

Or look for turkey-based versions. They may be lower in salt and fat than ones based on pork or beef.

A recent survey by Mintel a data tracking company found two out of three adults are interested in healthier snacks, but more than half admitted the lower fat, lower sodium snacks don't taste as good as the originals. So it appears that both consumers and food manufacturers have some work to do.

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