Hallo-wean Yourself Off of Unhealthy Treats with Three Healthy Alternatives
With Halloween just around the corner, you’ve probably noticed the shelves at your grocery store filling with what seem like endless bags of candy and chocolate, tempting you at every turn.
Treats in moderation are one thing, but if you find yourself having to return to the store to buy more bags of candy for the trick-or-treaters because you keep polishing them off with your own daily snacking, you should maybe start thinking of alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Salty potato chips, melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate and even sugary sweet candy corn can definitely be tempting. There are other things to turn to, though, when you see a bag of chips or a chocolate bar coming your way.
Check out our list of healthy alternatives to classic treats that we all like to indulge in, especially around Halloween.
Craving the salty crunch of a potato chip? Make your own kale chips instead
Whether your favorite chip flavor is salt and vinegar, sour cream & onion or “Classic” (i.e. plain salted), most of us crave a salty, crunchy chip now and then.
Livestrong provides a pretty scary list of health risks associated with regular chip-snacking. Heart disease tops the list, due to the artificial trans fats that are used in the manufacturing of many potato chip brands. Also, some studies show that your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes goes up with frequent chip consumption. Finally, there is a chemical known as acrylamide that is produced by frying potatoes at high temperatures — this scary stuff increases your risk of cancer, as well as atherosclerosis when consumed on a regular basis.
While baked chips are better than fried (even baked at high temperatures, the amount of acrylamide in potatoes is lower than in those that are fried, for example), there are even better options out there.
Kale chips, for one, are a fan favorite. They’re so easy to make and there are so many different ways to season them that they’re a fun snack to start making at home.
Baking kale chips, according to SFGate, “retains all the nutritional value of the kale, creating a low-calorie, nutrient-dense snack that is quite beneficial for your health. […] One cup contains 206 percent of your vitamin A needs in the form of beta-carotene, which helps protect the surface of the eye. […] Kale contains no cholesterol and no unhealthy saturated or trans fats making it a good choice for cardiovascular health. […] In 1 cup of kale chips, you’ll consume 134 percent of your daily vitamin C needs to support immune function and more than 600 percent of your daily vitamin K requirements for proper blood clotting.”
Of course, you’ll need to add oil to turn your farmer’s market kale into crunchy, craving-busting kale chips but you can choose high-quality organic oils with high smoke points, like olive, coconut or avocado and you don’t need to use much. In fact, too much oil will prevent your chips from crisping so go easy.
The number one way to ensure that your kale chips pack a real nutritional punch is to bake them at a low temperature. A lot of recipes call for less time in a hotter oven — this will yield equally delicious chips but less nutritious ones.
Oh hey, guess what? We’ve created the perfect kale chips recipe so you needn’t look any further! Just click the link below.
Swapping kale chips in for your potato chips will cut your risk of some pretty serious health issues while increasing your daily intake of some important nutrients.
Instead of reaching for a candy bar, reach for a square of dark chocolate
You may have heard the alluring rumor that chocolate is good for you. This can be true, but it really only applies to dark chocolate, not milk chocolate and especially not “chocolate flavored candy”.
At base level, chocolate derived from the cacao bean can be pretty healthy for you.
However, according to Livestrong, “The addition of ingredients in the manufacturing of milk chocolate candy, however, decreases the nutritional value of chocolate and makes this food less healthy than its dark chocolate relative. Learning more about milk chocolate and what it contains may motivate you to choose alternative treats or to switch to dark chocolate, which can be lower in fat, calories and sugar. […] Milk chocolate is one of these foods that is not considered healthy because of the number of calories a small serving contains. A 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar has 235 calories.”
While some saturated fat is essential and an important part of a balanced diet, it’s very easy to get too much of this kind of fat.
Livestrong says that “a 1.5-oz. serving of milk chocolate has 13 grams of total fat, 8.1 of it saturated. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat comprise no more than 7 percent of your daily caloric intake. If you eat a typical 2000 calorie daily diet, you can have no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.”
Not to mention all of the added sugars — a 1.5-ounce chocolate bar contains an average of 23 grams of sugar. That’s a lot more sugar than you probably want to be eating on a regular basis.
And then there are the candy bars labeled “chocolate flavored”. These don’t actually contain enough cocoa and cocoa butter to be legally considered chocolate. On top of that, this stuff often contains artificial flavors and other junk, like cheap, hydrogenated vegetable oil to make it taste and feel like chocolate, despite not having the stuff that makes chocolate taste like chocolate (cocoa) or feel like chocolate in your mouth (cocoa butter). This stuff is probably best avoided altogether, especially since hydrogenated vegetable oil is a major source of harmful trans fats.
Dark chocolate is a much better choice. According to Healthline, it “is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. […] It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains: 1 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDA for Iron, 58% of the RDA for Magnesium, 89% of the RDA for Copper, 98% of the RDA for Manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.” These important nutrients all come from the cocoa bean.
Of course, eating a whole 100-gram chocolate bar in one sitting still isn’t ideal, given the number of calories you’d be consuming, but you can see how eating some dark chocolate once in awhile can not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also provide you with some essential nutrition.
Dark chocolate can boost your energy, elevate brain power, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and raise your good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
Love to snack on Smartfood? Pop your own popcorn
While the name “Smartfood”, suggests an intelligent choice for your health, this cheesy popcorn treat is actually pretty bad for you.
Livestrong tells us that “a 1-oz. serving of the snack has 160 calories, according to the Frito Lay website. The same serving size also has 10 g of fat and 290 mg of sodium. […] Eating a full bag of Smartfood will cost you 270 calories. […] The seasoning on the popcorn is made of a combination of oil, cheddar cheese, buttermilk, whey and salt, which accounts for its high salt and fat content. Smartfood contains dairy products and is unsafe for those with dairy allergies.”
Love popcorn, but don’t love those stats? Make your own!
According to Today, “When prepared with just the right ingredients, popcorn is low in calories, heart-smart, and surprisingly chock-full of healthy nutrients. […] Popped without any oil, this diet-friendly snack “weighs in” at just 30 calories per cup. That’s a steal in the snack world, considering a cup of potato chips will cost you 150 calories and the same portion of “snack mix” clocks in at 220.”
Popping your own popcorn is easy. If you want something truly nutritious, use an air popper and then add just enough butter (from grass-fed cows, of course) for flavor and your daily dose of saturated fat but not so much that you send the calorie count sky high. Sprinkle the hot popcorn with sea salt and some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor that will give you a protein and B vitamin boost!
If you prefer to use a pot and a stove, you will need oil, which will increase the calorie count again but you can choose organic coconut oil that marks a big improvement over the cheap (and probably rancid) vegetable oils used in pre-bagged popcorn products. It’s pretty simple to do but you might want to follow specific instructions, like the ones found on Baked Bree’s blog.
Making better snack choices
While it may take some willpower, it’s pretty easy to choose a healthier option… especially when they’re delicious like our crunchy kale chips (share below for the free recipe!).
If you’re looking for healthier options for your everyday cooking, take a peek at our recipes in the Activation Kitchen.
Did your Halloween treat not make our list? What alternatives do you go for when you’re craving a sweet treat? Let us know!
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