The junk food market becomes larger and larger every day. “Stop eating junk food!” they say; easier said than done when the food industry spends over $33 billion per year in the US alone to advertise food products that could be classified as junk food.  Another alarming fact is that the average person today consumes more added sugar in two weeks than a person a century ago would have eaten in a whole year.  All of this added sugar comes from junk food, including soft drinks, sweetened cereals, candy, processed snacks and fast foods.  This list will give you the top 5 junk foods and ideas for their replacements. You can stop eating junk food… or at least cut back!

1)    Pizza. 
Frozen or fresh from Domino’s, pizza contains hundreds of empty calories, mostly coming from the abundance of cheese.  It has a high fat and cholesterol content, which is never good for anyone especially those with heart conditions.  Eating just one small piece won’t do any harm; however, serving sizes of pizza have gone up in the past few years.  We are consuming much more than we need to.  Pizza is also extremely high in sodium.  Just two slices of frozen DiGiorno pepperoni pizza contains 2,020 mg of sodium.  This is almost more than people need in an entire day!

What to replace it with: 
When eating out, use portion control.  Aim to eat only one or two pieces.  Instead of ordering supreme pizza, get a veggie pizza.  You can also buy items at the grocery store to make your own nutritious pizza at home. 

2)    Soft Drinks. 
Soda and other sugary drinks add sugar and calories to your diet without providing much, if any, nutrition.  Excessively consuming soft drinks can lead to obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure.  These problems are becoming significantly apparent in children.  It is also known that regular soda drinkers don’t drink enough water, which can take a toll on good health. 

What to replace it with:
 
Water!  It may be difficult if you’re an avid soda drinker, but replacing soda with water is one of the best things you can do for your diet.  You can also try flavored carbonated water and natural fruit juices.

3)    Candies.
 
These are among the most easily available but most sinful junk food items.  For starters, candies are nothing but a concentrated form of sugar.  The high sucrose or fructose content ensures that you immediately get a sugar spike.  Candy can cause stomach problems if consumed in large amounts—which isn’t hard to do! If it’s energy that you crave when you pick up some candies, check out these 7 foods that GIVE you energy.

What to replace it with: 
If you’re craving something sweet, reach for fruit or nuts.  Stock your fridge with apples, grapes, berries, bananas, walnuts, almonds and pecans.  If this doesn’t fully satisfy your sweet tooth, eat just a few candies.  You can also try drinking a glass of water or going for a walk to get your mind off of sugar.

4)    Sugary Cereals. 

Most people are surprised to see ‘cereal’ on what-not-to-eat lists.  This is because many of them are advertised as healthy breakfast cereals.  However, cereals including Fruit Loops and Reese’s Puffs have high added sugar content.  This can contribute to sugar cravings during the daytime, causing you to eat more. 

What to replace it with:
 
Buy a healthier cereal, of course!  Make sure to compare food labels to determine which has the least amount of added sugar.  You can add your own fruit to an unsweetened, whole grain cereal which will make it taste just as good.  Whole grain oatmeal is another healthy alternative.

5)    Potato Chips. 
Chips are a major culprit to weight gain in America.  Their tastiness and appealing texture make it hard to follow the serving size, hence the reason some people eat the entire bag.  Potato chips contain high amounts of fat, empty calories and sodium.

What to replace it with: 
If you’re craving chips, reach for a healthier snack like pretzels instead.  Stock your cupboards with convenient, nutritious snacks like nuts, whole grain granola bars, fruit, etc…Keep chips out of the house or out of sight/reach.  If you absolutely must have chips, control your portion size.  Don’t eat directly out of the bag; size your portion before you start eating. 

The key to healthy eating is moderation.  No food is initially a ‘bad’ food, however; you can make it bad if you consume too much of it. You don’t have to stop eating junk food altogether, just check portion sizes and learn to substitute empty calorie foods with nutrient dense foods, like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, lean protein and dairy products.  Also, get the facts on fast food as this type of food can be a major culprit!