Got a Junk-Food Addiction?

Got a Junk-Food Addiction?

Can't live without pizza, burritos, and burgers? Don't bother trying! Instead, use these strategies to make all your favorite indulgences healthier.

Why is it that the foods we often gravitate toward tend to be the biggest waist wreckers out there? And trying to swear off of them never works. Somehow we always end up at the drive-through with a supersized order. So let's not kid ourselves. Or torture ourselves. The fact is, junk foods don't have to be totally off limits. We just have to get savvy about how we order or prepare them. Here's how to have it all:

Cheesy pizza: More pizza places are starting to offer healthier options. Ask for a thin whole-wheat crust -- the thinner the crust, the fewer the fat grams and calories. Plus, you get a whole lot more fiber and protein if you go whole wheat. Also ask for half the normal amount of cheese (it'll cut some saturated fat and calories). Skip the sausage and pepperoni, and go for chicken and heart-friendly vegetables, like artichokes, onions, and bell peppers. When you get your pie, grab a napkin and blot off any visible pools of grease. This simple move can knock off another 3 to 5 grams of fat. 

Salty fries: A medium order of fries from Carl's Jr. has (brace yourself) 430 calories and 21 grams of fat. So don't even think about it.

Juicy burgers: Might sound strange, but mixing chopped unsweetened tart cherries (fresh, frozen, or canned) into ground beef is a tasty way to reduce the amount of meat (and thus fat and calories) in each burger. Also, if you're cooking on a grill, adding cherries means fewer carcinogens will form during grilling. After the burgers are done, eliminate more fat by blotting them with paper towels. The cherries help keep them juicy.

Mighty burritos: For fillings, opt for chicken, black beans, or seafood, not fat-laden beef, pork, or refried beans. Top your burrito with salsa (low cal and no fat), not sour cream, which packs 11 grams of fat -- 6 of which are saturated -- in a measly quarter cup. If you need a little creaminess, add a dollop of guacamole. The heart-healthy good fats in avocado also unlock extra antioxidants in the salsa's tomatoes.

Creamy milk shakes: A milk shake is often a burger-and-fries afterthought, but the calories in that cup almost count more. Even a small McDonald's Triple Thick Chocolate Shake packs in 440 calories and 10 grams of fat. But that's pretty "light" compared with the 770 calories and 35 grams of fat in Carl's Jr.'s Chocolate Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Malt. The basic formula for a satisfying and nutritionally acceptable shake? Start with reduced-fat ice cream. Slow-churned varieties are delicious and often contain half the fat, but check the label to be sure. Froth it up in the blender with some skim milk. For extra flavor, consider less heavy toppings, like a touch of light chocolate syrup or frozen fruit pieces.

Cola cooler: Nothing washes down a junk-food meal quite like an ice-cold cola. But if you grab the 20 ouncer, it's a quick way to add 65 grams of sugar to your meal. Instead of switching to diet soda (which has its own drawbacks), develop a taste for unsweetened iced tea. You can make it yourself in a flash, too. Just heat 2 cups of water until very hot, and steep with four tea bags of your choice. Then, add 2 cups of cold water and chill the brew. To give it a little sweetness with minimal extra calories, add a couple of splashes of lemonade. (Related: Check out some of our favorite healthy iced tea concoctions.)

Stop the Meal Madness
Few of us will ever have our high school waistlines back. But it may only take a few thoughtful substitutions to get pretty close. Make just a couple of smart swaps and you no longer have to feel bad about loving the same meals you craved in college. And, best of all, those healthful little cooking substitutions can make your RealAge a little closer to your college age.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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