9 Simple Junk Food Swaps

If junk food is taking over your child's diet, consider making these healthy swaps

Takeout pizza, fries and chicken nuggets might be your child’s (or your) preferred menu choices, but we know they are not the best for them. We sat down with registered dietitian Shannon Crocker and asked her to share her ideas for better-for-you-and-them substitutions to up the nutritional value of your child’s meals (it is indeed possible!).

1. French Fries


Try instead: Homemade Baked Fries

This option has less saturated fat and way more actual potato than most fast food versions. If you keep the skins on as well, those fry-craving littles will get even more fibre. Or go for home-baked sweet potato fries—they are rich in beta carotene, which promotes healthy vision.

Eating out: Baked Potato

Sprinkle with a little cheddar cheese for a calcium—and serious flavour—boost. If you want to try baked potatoes at home, we’ve got some good recipes that the littles will love.

2. Gummy Candies


Try instead: Fresh fruit

Even gummies that claim to be made with “real fruit” or fruit juice are more like gelatinous sugar than anything that resembles fruit. Instead, offer fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. These are sweet enough on their own, plus they are bursting with health-promoting antioxidants. For a change, frozen grapes and banana chunks make a sweet, fun snack. Adventurous eaters might like dried figs or apricots dipped in a little melted dark chocolate or even a tiny bit of honey. YUM.

3. Take-Away Pizza



Try instead: Homemade Pizza or a Cheese Dip like Fondue

Start with whole-grain pitas, pizza crust or your own dough (try a low-carb dough made with egg and cheese). Spread on salsa, pesto or make your own tomato purée and add herbs and spices. Load on the cheese and your choice of meat (chicken, pepperoni, steak, anything!).Top with veggies like red peppers or zucchini. Make fondue and hand those kidlets a plate of sausages and veggies to dip in it…mix salsa into it for a kick.

Eating out: Thin crust pizza.

Ask for extra sauce and cheese. Have a salad on the side. If you want to go low carb, just eat the cheese and toppings…seriously, that’s the best part of pizza anyway!

4. Pop or Soda


Try instead: Water

Thirst-quenching and calorie-free, water should be the first beverage kids reach for. Keep a pitcher of water with orange slices in it in the fridge or fill refillable water bottles and keep them in the fridge for even faster thirst quenchers.

Eating Out: Sparkling Water

If your kids like the carbonation of pop, offer them sparkling water with a big squeeze of an orange or lemon slice, for a sweeter flavour without the added sugar.

5. Potato Chips


Try instead: Nuts & Seeds

If they have to have something crispy and salty, some nuts and pumpkin or sunflower seeds have (depending on the brand) way fewer preservatives, more fibre, protein and much better fats.

Eating Out: Veggies and Dip

Most restaurants will give you a side of sliced cucumbers, carrots and broccoli if you ask for it instead of chips. Or this is also a snack you can carry with you (since chips are usually a spur-of-the-moment indulgence). This snack provides the crunch kids desire and bean or roasted veggie dip will fill them up, providing longer-lasting energy so kids won’t be hungry again in half an hour.

6. Sports Drinks


Try instead: Coconut Water

Next time your sporty, sweaty kidlets are in need of hydration hand them a Coconut Water rather than a sports drink. It has all the same electrolytes as those sport drinks and does not contain the sugar, salt and artificial ingredients that we don’t want to be giving our wee ones. 

7. Store Bought Cookies & Granola Bars


Try instead: Apple Wedges with Natural Nut or Seed Butter

Even a homemade cookie is still a treat, so try nut or seed butter spread on a slice of apple. Sprinkle with a few mini dark chocolate chips to satisfy a sweet tooth.

8. Deep Fried Chicken Pieces


Try this instead: Home-Baked Chicken Skewers

With real chicken and no fillers, these still have the fun factor because they are on sticks. Bump up the flavour by adding some favourite herbs and spices. Try these Fire Roasted Chicken Skewers on the wee nugget-needers. They’ll love them.

Eating out: Grilled Chicken

Cut it into strips and serve with a side of dipping sauce.

9. Ice Cream


Try instead: Make Your Own

Sweetened with fresh or frozen fruit and not sugar, home made ice cream can actually be a not-horrible-for-you treat. Add some shaved super dark chocolate and you’re even incorporating antioxidants that they won’t complain about.

Eating Out: Fresh Fruit

Kids love fruit. Seriously. Stop ordering them ice cream because they waaaaaaaaaaaaaant it and order them the fruit cup. Or just say no to dessert when at a restaurant. It won’t kill them (though they might claim it will).



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