It can be hard to deny yourself the the pleasure of a indulging in a pizza or knocking back a bag of greasy potato chips while enjoying a movie. But if you're trying to watch your weight while occasionally snacking on something besides carrot sticks, fear not: You can enjoy snacks without the bad stuff.
For the times you need to cheat, cheat healthy. Snag a slice of pizza — in between crushing squat sets and perfecting your pectorals — without the abundance of oil. Enjoy a scoop of ice cream, but make sure you skip the pesticides and hormones.
We talked to Molly Kimball, a sports dietician with Ochsner's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans, to get the (literal) scoop on seven healthy junk food alternatives for health-conscious snackers.
1) Popcorners Whole Grain Chips
Next time you head to the grocery store because you’re all out of butter-saturated movie theater-style popcorn, snag a bag of Popcorners instead. Popcorners Whole Grain Chips are free of gluten and GMOs, making them a quality snack.
“I really like these as a chip alternative," Kimball says. "They're made with whole grains, have a decent bit of protein, and taste-wise they're a hit with my clients.”
Ice cream gets a bad rap for its typically sugar-packed, fat abundant interior, but not Arctic Zero. Billed as ice cream for gym-goers, Arctic Zero contains 35 calories per serving, zero fat, and a decent amount of whey protein.
“Whey protein is the first ingredient after water - and a 1/2 cup serving has just 35 calories and 3 grams protein," Kimball says. "Carbs are minimal compared to other types of ice cream (7 grams) and there's no artificial sweeteners or colors. For those who struggle with portion control, the entire pint is just 150 calories!"
Nature Valley Protein bars might not be your go-to protein bar for a trip to the gym. But with roughly 10 grams of protein per bar and a good amount of fiber, they will hold you over between meals.
Kimball says: "This is one of the few granola-style bars on shelves with more protein than sugar. With 10 grams of protein, along with the heart-smart fats from the nuts, this bar has staying power, helping to keep you powered through your day instead of [giving you] a sugar rush and a crash."
These aren’t your grandma’s salty and greasy potato chips. Beanitos bean chips are an excellent snack to complement a salad, or as a standalone snack for a comfortable movie night in at home. With five grams of fiber and four grams of complete protein, Beanitos chips are a great snacking choice.
"They have two times more protein and three times more fiber than regular tortilla or blue corn chips," Kimball says. "They're still a 'treat' but at least have the nutritional benefits of real, whole beans (white or black). My favorite flavors are Chipotle Black Bean or Nacho Cheese White Bean."
Perky Jerky’s protein packed turkey jerkey will have your muscles saying 'thank you.' Their low-calorie, no-fat turkey jerky is an excellent post-workout option and a great on-the-go snack.
Kimball says: "This jerkey has real ingredients, no added nitrites/nitrates—and the sodium is relatively moderate, compared to many brands of jerky. This can definitely be a good, protein-rich snack on the run."
Pizza is the one snack most of us feel guilty for eating—it’s hard to deny yourself a few extra slices—and pizza bagels are even worse. A guilt-free substitute? Annie’s Homegrown Mini Pizza Bagels. Made with organic flour and tomatoes, you have our permission to take an extra bagel. Or two.
"If you're craving pizza, this can be a good substitute," Kimball says. "These are better than traditional bagel bites, because they're at least a blend of white and whole wheat flour. They also have a better ratio of protein to carbs (10 grams protein and 27 grams carbs) and only 200 calories for four pieces."
Kimball says: "They still contain white flour as the second ingredient, but they at least have more whole wheat flour than anything else, plus a medley of other whole grains. I also like the fact that they have three grams of fiber and just one gram of sugar."