One of the hardest things about switching to an organic and natural diet for me was finding substitutes for my favorite junkfood.  I did it through trial and error and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I spent hours searching the Internet for answers about ingredients and additives with the purpose of discovering which were harmful and what to avoid. If only I’d had the Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks book back then, it would have made the transition so much easier.

Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks is a book which pits the most popular junkfoods against healthier versions and it does it by providing the product ingredients as well as the science behind why choosing one over the other makes sense. The book is laid out with the traditional product on the left page with its nutrition facts and ingredients and the healtier option on the right. Offending ingredients are highlighted  in red so it helps you spot them quickly and with enough practice, you’ll be able to find them on labels in the store.

Unjunk the Junkfood Sample Page - Healthy Doritos Alternative

Unjunk the Junkfood Sample Page - Unhealthy options on the left, healthy choices on the right. Offending ingredients in red (always avoid) with ingredients that should be avoided most of the time in yellow. Photo Credit: naturallysavvy.com

Now don’t worry the authors behind the book will not try to convince you that dried seaweed is a good alternative for a Snickers® bar. Thankfully they match taste to taste  as much as possible,  so it’s truly authentic option.  As someone who’s already switched her pantry over to the healthier options I was happy to see a lot of the products I use and consume recommended in the book. Late July Cheddar Cheese Sandwich crackers instead of Ritz Cracker Sandwiches® with Cheese (I also love the Late July Peanut Butter Crackers instead of Ritz Bits®) and  SunSpire Sun Drops (I like the plain and peanut varieties and they’re great in baking although mine usually disappear before I can make cookies with them)  instead of M&Ms®.  But there were a few surprises as well.

Chocolate Peppermint Cream Puffs Recipe - TruWhip Recipes and Coupons can be found at their website - Photo Credit: truwhip.com

Chocolate Peppermint Cream Puffs Recipe - TruWhip Recipes and Coupons can be found at their website - Photo Credit: truwhip.com

I’d completely written off ever eating Cool Whip® again but I was suprised to find they recommend a product called TruWhip Whipped Topping (which I just found on their store locater is sold at my Albertson’s store less than a mile away!).  I was also happy to find an alternative for Life Savers®.  I’ve substitute YummyEarth Organic Hard Candy Drops, but they recommend Go Naturally Organic Hard Candies which I’ve tried as well and loved.

I’m also thrilled that they have an alternative for Popsicle® Frozen Treats.  I gave them up because of the artificial flavors, colors, and HFCS but I miss a frozen treat now and then.  I’ve stood with the freezer door open at the store while I’ve read box after box of treats and put every one of them back because of the horrible ingredients they’re made with.  I’m thrilled to find they recommend Breyer’s Pure Fruit All Natural Bars and I’ll search them out the next time we have a hot day here (which could be August, it’s Seattle after all!). Don’t be fooled by the “Better for You” and “Healthy Bunch” text that’s been added to the front of some popular frozen treats.  READ the label – they’re talking about fewer calories, not better nutrition.

Read the labels - "More of the Whole Grains Your Body Needs" and "Nutra" in the name do not equal good nutrition.

Read the labels - "More of the Whole Grains Your Body Needs" and "Nutra" in the name do not equal good nutrition. - Photo Credit: NaturallySavvy.com

I was also thrilled to find a replacement for Crystal Light® .  They recommend Hansen’s Natural Fruit Stix for a more natural way to flavor your water.  They also suggest dumping the Kool-Aid and replacing it with Organic Flavrz.  I plan to kick the soda habit soon and I think both of these alternatives may be just the help I need to do it.

But why make the substitutions?  Because the traditional foods have lots of chemicals, many which are deemed unsafe, and most have no nutritional value.  It’s not about calories, it’s about the amount of nutrition in the food.  The book has a list of the “worst ingredients.”  They’re additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors that should always be avoided.  Many have been associated with health issues including cancer.  The authors suggest keeping this list with you when you shop and reading labels to avoid them.

The Scary Seven 

HFCS: High-Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA glucose-fructose in Canada)
TRANS-FATS: Anything listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ (including vegetable shortening)
MSG: Monosodium glutamate
ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Any artificial flavoring
ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Any type of artificial dyes (like the food color you have in your cupboard)
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Chemical sweeteners including Aspartame, Splenda (sucralose), Ace-K (Acesulfame Potassium), Saccharine, etc.:
PRESERVATIVES: Polysorbate 60, 65 & 80, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, BHA, BHT, Sulfur Dioxide (sulfites).

You should be able to find many of the brands and products they recommend in your store or local health store.  Some are brands you may already be buying like Nature’s Path, Surf Sweets, Newman’s Own, Snapple, Simply Lemonade, Capri Sun, and more, but don’t assume every item from these companies is clean. You’ll have to read the label to be sure.  That’s why I shop online for my groceries and have them delivered.  It gives me the luxury of looking up the ingredients and not having to try to read the tiny labels at the the store.  I purchase many of mine on Amazon.com and my favorite online sweets store, the Natural Candy Store (you can read our review of the Natural Candy Store as well check out some of our favorite candies – the post was written a year ago so the sale mentioned is no longer accurate; however, there is a great sale available now).

Unjunk Your Junk Food Review

Under $15 for a jam-packed book of nutritional information.

I love the look and layout of Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks and the amount of information included is staggering and that leads me to my one little complaint.  The book is small and so the pages are packed which means the text is tiny which makes it difficult to read.  Other than this one minor complaint; this is a must-own book. I’ll be sharing the book with my son and his girlfriend who have the worst diets ever and if they complain about the cost of buying healthier options, I’ll remind them that snacks are not a necessity so if it’s $4.99 a bag for the healthy version vs $.99 for the unhealthy, they can’t complain because what they’re paying for is REAL food and nutrition.  It makes it easier that way, plus as more people come to the realization that chemicals are not food, the prices will come down.

So, what’s in your pantry and are you looking to improve your diet?  Too overwhelming? Make one change today…then another next week and so on.  Your body will be glad you did!

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Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks 

  • Authors:  Randy Boyer, Andrea Donsky
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (December 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1451616562 ISBN-13: 978-1451616569

Buy It

The books is available at Barnes & Nobel online and in stores, Amazon.com, and other fine book retailers.

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