10 Cheaper and Healthier Alternatives to Junk Foods
Junk food is bad for us in so many different ways. And although it’s not everyone’s first thought in the argument against junk food, cost is an important consideration. You can save money on your grocery bill as well as your medical expenses if you switch to these cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk foods.
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The Cost of Junk Food
Junk food costs money out of our pockets in three key ways.
First of all, junk food is often more expensive than healthy food. Of course, you can find deals and sales and fast food that make it cheaper. But you’re often spending more for the junk than you would for fresh whole food.
Second, junk food is addictive. Therefore, you often end up buying more and more over time. You aren’t satisfied with one cookie, now you want the whole bag of them. So, you end up spending more on groceries because you’re buying more and more junk food to satisfy your cravings.
Finally, junk food erodes your health. Therefore, you end up spending money on medications and other medical care. You wouldn’t spend that money if you kept yourself healthy through nutritious eating.
So, junk food costs you up front and over time. Therefore, finding cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk foods can be an important part of your budget.
10 Cheaper and Healthier Alternatives to Junk Foods
There are many cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk food. Some are specific food changes. However, others are about changing your behavior.
1. Eat Fruit
If you tend to have sugar cravings, then stock up on healthy fruit. Buy whole, unprocessed, seasonal fruit. Shop farmer’s markets, local produce stores, farm delivery services, and big chan grocery stores to find the best prices on seasonal produce near you.
2. Find Veggies You Love
Over time, fresh fruit will satisfy your sugar cravings. However, you might be surprised by how many healthy veggies are also tastier than junk food. If sweets are your thing, try sweet bell peppers and carrots. If you like salty or savory, try greens with fresh lemon and herbs. Again, shop in season and as local as possible to reduce your costs.
3. Drink Water
Oftentimes we think we are hungry when actually we are just thirsty. If you’re dehydrated, then reach for water, not for junk food. Before you snack, fill up a big glass of water and drink it down. Give it a few minutes. If you’re still hungry, then reach for a healthy snack, not junk food. In particular, avoid salty and caffeinated junk food as that will just worsen the dehydration and make the cycle worse.
4. Take Time to Sit Down for Meals
Do you often grab food on the go? Or do you eat at the table while multi-tasking with your screens? If so, then you probably eat more junk food than you ought to. Instead, take the time to sit down and mindfully eat each meal. Yes, each meal, three times per day. The more consciously, thoughtfully, and intentionally you prepare and enjoy your meals, the less likely it is that you’ll overeat junk food.
5. Learn About Intuitive Eating
Don’t just give up junk food to “be good.” That mentality will just land you in a thick cycle of eating bad, eating good, eating bad, eating good. It’ll ultimately make the battle with junk food worse. Instead, develop a healthy relationship with food. You can learn about intuitive eating online for free as a starting point. The intuitive eating community is also a great resource for even more information about cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk foods.
6. Make Your Own Junk Food
Maybe you don’t want to give up your favorite junk food entirely. That’s okay. Switching to making it yourself can help you save money. Moreover, you can make substitutions that make those foods healthier. For example, CookSmarts recommends:
- Making fries from other veggies instead of potatoes; if you’re smart with your oil then you can have relatively healthy fries
- Use kale to make an alternative to chips from a bag
- Add fruit to yogurt and freeze it as an alternative to ice cream
- Eat a handful of dark chocolate covered nuts or fruit rather than a candy bar
- Stock up on sparkling water as an alternative to sodas, juices, and alcohol
And these days you can find recipes to make just about anything using cauliflower instead of eating carbs.
7. Eat Junk Food Only as a Special Treat
Sometimes those cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk foods just won’t do. You want the real thing. That’s okay. Just eat it mindfully. Make it a special treat, not an everyday thing. Set some rules and guidelines for yourself that keep it truly special and rare.
For example, I have a rule that I never order dessert at a restaurant unless they have chocolate mousse. Most places don’t have it, so I don’t come across it all that often. When I do, it’s truly a treat. I’m indulging. It’s part of my special budget. Therefore, I enjoy it without letting it take over my life and my health.
You might choose special foods or special, rare occasions on which to indulge. Then the rest of the time, you make the healthy choices.
8. Start The Day with Eggs or Oatmeal
These are both solid, healthy breakfast options that will sustain you until lunchtime. They are affordable options that are healthier than many other breakfast choices. So skip the bagels, pancakes, and cold cereals in favor of a healthy start to the day.
9. Snack Like You’re Feeding a Kindergartener
What are some of the cheaper and healthier alternatives to junk foods that you’re comfortable giving to your kids on a regular basis? Carrot sticks, string cheese, yogurt, peanut butter on apples … if you can’t wait until your next meal and need a snack, think about these options.
10. Try Therapy for Eating Issues
Okay, so therapy might not be objectively “cheaper” than junk food. But it’s definitely healthier to address any underlying eating issues than to destroy your health with poor eating. Many of us engage in emotional eating or eat due to underlying mental health issues. Working on that is critical to long-term health.
Moreover, if you have insurance or access to sliding scale services then you might actually find affordable therapy that’s cheaper, or as cheap as, the junk food that is harming you. Alternatively, there are free groups, such as Overeaters Anonymous, that provide online and in-person support for eating issues.
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