Over time, various ‘recreational foods’ have permeated into every aspect of our culture. We eat them not only for the way they taste, but also for entertainment. And despite ample and increasingly strong evidence about their risks to our health, we consume more than ever. While our individual reasons may be diverse, the primary motivation is the same in each. Scientific studies clearly demonstrate eating junk food has similar addictive patterns to drugs like cocaine and even heroin. The recreational or ‘junk’ foods mentioned here can be categorized into 4 basic groups: 1. Soft Drinks – This category contains any drink with large amounts of sweetener like sugar or especially high fructose corn syrup. This includes soda, flavored waters, and even most commercially sold ‘fruit juices’. Each glass often contains enough calories in simple carbohydrates to make a medium size meal all by itself, with almost no nutrition. 2. Fatty Foods – While dietary fat is not nearly as dangerous as sugar (as the marketing for ‘low fat’ food implies), the risk level depends upon the balance of your diet. And there are many fatty foods, including hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, breaded foods, and more. A Western cultural tradition of eating many animal based fats without a proper balance of plants contributes to a variety of health issues both mentally and physically. 3. Starchy Foods – This may now actually be the largest, most abused category out of the four. Starch – root vegetables, grains, and similar – is found in a huge variety of foods. Bread, chips, fries, pancakes, pasta, puffs, many more. These foods are either simple or complex carbohydrates which in many cases digest just as fast as sugar, leading to the same consequences (weight gain, heart damage, skin problems, etc). 4. Sweets – Another very abused category, though perhaps falling by the wayside as public institutions wake up to its dangers. Anything with unnatural amounts of sugar, fructose, HCFS, or other sweeteners qualifies. And there are too many to mention. Bars, candies, cake, donuts, ice cream, pie, twinkies – chances are, you know it when you eat it. These foods rarely ‘disguise’ themselves. It is important to note that many of these foods overlap into several categories. Donuts, ice cream, and some restaurant specialties all have large amounts of both animal fats and sugar, for instance. Salt is also a special mention. While not a category by itself (as it can be applied to many foods), regular table salt holds little nutritional value and causes health problems in large quantities. And this brings us to our list of healthy, great tasting junk food alternatives: 1. Sea Salt
Sea salt is vastly superior to conventional table salt. Not only does it taste much better (and different sea salts have a variety of tastes), but it is much healthier. Unlike table salt which is as much as 99% calcium chloride, it contains multiple valuable minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 2. Nuts and Seeds
When we think of nuts, the first thing which often comes to mind is the traditional can of ‘mixed nuts’ available at the grocery store. We may even think: I don’t like these! There are, however, hundreds of varieties of nuts and seeds available on (and off) the market. Amongst these is bound to be a variety you really enjoy. And in the process, you can also enjoy the fact that nuts and seeds are among the absolute healthiest foods you can eat: very high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, protein, omega 3; and low in unhealthy calories. 3. Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies
For many of us used to eating ‘recreational foods’, the last thing we tend to think of when considering fruits and vegetables is delicious. However, this is exactly what they are when combined into a smoothie using one of hundreds of freely available recipes online or in books & magazines. Fruit smoothies and ‘green’ smoothies, as their called, can contain all the...