We all have those days when we would rather grab a bag of Oreo cookies than stroll down that creepy 'organic' aisle in the grocery store.
Turning over the package and reading the label, we usually come face-to-face with the dreaded c-word: calories. That number brings up everything from our New Year's resolutions to fitting into that little black dress at the end of the week. But this shouldn't be the most important factor influencing our decisions, says Andrea Donsky, co-author of "Unjunk Your Junk Food," a guide to replacing your favourite snacks with healthier alternatives. After testing out hundreds of brands of junk foods, the authors came up with a final list of popular foods like Snickers and Canada Dry, and their healthier alternatives.
"We wanted to make sure people were reading the ingredients," Donsky says.
The products in book were presented in such a way, that when it came to fat and calories, they were very similar.
"We found out that 80 per cent of people say they read labels, but only half understand what they're reading," Donsky says.
As a result, the authors created a chart of the "worst ingredients," including artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, to name a few.
This book is particularly helpful for parents who know they can't protect kids from sugary villains forever. Most will find ways to eat sugar at school, birthday parties or when they make new friends, Donsky says. But change should start at home.
We listed some of our favourite alternative junk food choices from the book and included the pitfalls and benefits. The product on the right is the healthier option.
'Skinny Cow Low-Fat Ice Cream' CALORIES: 150 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 90 mgPitfalls: This ice cream includes unhealthy partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and high-fructose corn syrup -- both of which contribute to weight gain. 'Breyers Smooth & Dream 1/2 Fat'CALORIES: 130 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 95 mgBenefits: This product of Breyers doesn't include any hidden trans fats.
'Oreo Cookies' CALORIES: 160 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 160 mgPitfalls: Oreos contain vanillin which is an artificial flavour that has been reported to lead to health problems including asthma and hyperactivity in children. 'Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cremes Cookies'CALORIES: 130 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 90 mgBenefits: These cookies are made with organic ingredients and taste exactly like an Oreo (HuffPost Canada also did their own taste test and agree).
'Minute Maid Lemonade' CALORIES: 100 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 15 mgPitfalls: Adding preservatives to beverages can slow down the growth of mould and yeast, leading to longer shelf life for products like this one. 'Simply Lemonade'CALORIES: 120 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 15 mgBenefits: This lemonade is made with simple ingredients (water, natural sugar and lemon juice), similar to those you would use at your childhood lemonade stand.
'Lipton Brisk Iced Tea With Lemon' CALORIES: 80 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 65 mgPitfalls: Lipton's version contains phosphoric acid, which is reported to reduce calcium in the body. 'Simply Lemonade'CALORIES: 80 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 5 mgBenefits: Keeping it simple, this iced tea version includes water, sugar, citric acid, tea and natural flavours.
'Propel Blueberry Pomegranate' CALORIES: 0 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 80 mgPitfalls: Propel's version includes artificial sweeteners, which may also cause weight gain. 'Glaceau Vitamin Water XXX'CALORIES: 50 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 0 mgBenefits: Even though Vitamin Water has more calories, it does not include any artificial sweeteners.
'Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devil's Food Mix' CALORIES: 170 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 330 mgPitfalls: If you see 'shortening' listed as an ingredient, it's usually a hidden trans fat used for baking. 'Dr. Oetker Organic Cake Mix'CALORIES: 150 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 280 mgBenefits: Guess what? You can have your cake and eat it too. This cake mix version has simple organic ingredients including cane sugar.
'Kellogg's Nutri-Grain' CALORIES: 130 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 110 mgPitfalls: Another product with hidden trans fats, adding hydrogenated oils can also lead to weight gain. 'Nature's Path Organic Yogurt Berry Strawberry Bars'CALORIES: 140 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 80 mgBenefits: With simple ingredients like oats and brown rice flour, these bars also taste great.
'Great Value Potato Chips in Sour Cream And Onion' CALORIES: 150 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 210 mgPitfalls: Many people associate MSG with Asian food, but it can also found in processed foods -- like these chips by Great Value. 'Kettle Brand Potato Chips Sour Cream And Onion' CALORIES: 150 TRANS FAT: 0 g SODIUM: 140 mgBenefits: Even though both brands have the same amount of calories, Kettle's chips have less sodium and no MSG.