Healthy Junk Food: 7 Indulgences That Aren't Actually Bad For You
Whole Foods Market
By Lynn Andriani
Wait: It's OK to eat gooey breakfast sandwiches, frozen burritos and microwave popcorn? Absolutely, with these (almost entirely) guilt-free options.
The Gooey But Not Greasy Microwavable Mexican Dinner
The frozen burrito has been stuck in a kind of healthy food limbo -- is it bad for you? overly salty? a decent late-night dinner? -- until recently. Stock your freezer with Evol (that's love, backwards) burritos, and you'll be eating something good. The company uses ingredients like free-range, hormone-free chicken, humanely raised beef, house-made salsa and organic beans -- and recently started making some of its burritos with gluten-free tortillas.
$2.74 each | EvolFoods.com
The Just-The-Tastiest-Part Brownie
If you're the person who always wants the corner piece of a tray of brownies, Sheila G's Brownie Brittle might be your new best friend. The thin, crispy fragments taste just like those crunchy brownie bits. The company's newest flavor, Salted Caramel, is a satisfying mix of sweet and salty -- and one serving is only 120 calories.
$10.95 for 2 bags | BrownieBrittle.com
The Better-Than-What-They-Sell-At-The-Movies Popcorn
The first sign that Quinn Popcorn is not your average microwavable snack-in-a-bag is the cool flavors (hello, Parmesan & Rosemary and Hickory Smoked Cheddar). In addition to the brilliant combinations, the makers behind this addictive popcorn use organic corn and no GMO ingredients or preservatives -- and they've figured out how to package their popcorn in such a way that there's no need for chemical coatings.
$14.99 for 3 boxes (2 bags per box) | QuinnPopcorn.com
The Hot Cocoa That Needs No Marshmallows
We've found a rich, sweet hot chocolate that's so good, we'd even hunker down with a mug-full on a steamy August afternoon. NibMor Organic Vegan Drinking Chocolate comes in traditional, mint, and 6-spice (a zippy blend of chai and peppery notes) and doesn't include any of the corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or artificial flavor found in some other brands.
$8.99 for 6 packets | NibMor.com
The Salty, Chewy Road Trip Snack
If, like us, you long ago wrote off jerky as teenager fuel (read: loaded with salt, preservatives and artificial ingredients), it may be time to give the cured meat another chance. New, better-for-you brands are flooding the market, such as nitrate- and hormone-free Krave, which makes adventurous flavors like Black Cherry Barbecue and Basil Citrus.
$7 per bag | KraveJerky.com
The Decadent Breakfast Sandwich
Whole Foods Market
Try this dessert-like spin on the traditional morning on-the-go meal: Spread one toaster waffle with a spoonful each of whipped cream cheese and strawberry preserves, add sliced strawberries and whole blackberries, then put one more waffle on top. It's creamy, tart and -- if you use multigrain waffles, such as 365 Everyday Value Organic Multigrain -- healthy, too.
$2.99 | WholeFoods.com
A Drinkable Dessert
The Republic of Tea
It sounds too good to be true: How could a cup of tea even remotely resemble a slice of red velvet cake? But believe us when we tell you The Republic of Tea's Red Velvet Cuppa Chocolate Tea is the closest thing to liquid dessert that we've ever tasted. It's made from decaf rooibos tea leaves blended with chocolate and beet root bits (some cake recipes include the vegetable, too, for that distinct color). With a splash of milk and a pinch of sugar, a cup tastes shockingly similar to a cupcake.
$10 for 36 bags | RepublicOfTea.com
The virtuous ingredient list -- which includes honey, coconut oil, almond butter, almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, goji berries and oats -- is one reason to love these brownie-like bars. The other reason: There’s no oven required.
Get the recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bars
Frothy egg whites are the surprising ingredient that help cinnamon and sugar stick to almonds in this simple roasted snack. The nuts are excellent sources of magnesium, which can help you feel more relaxed.
Get the recipe: Cinnamon-Glazed Almonds
Whether you prefer to think of this as a smoothie you eat with a spoon or a dairy-free pudding, there’s no arguing that whipped bananas and pears plus dark chocolate chips are a delicious combination. Use well-ripened fruit to ensure the finished dish is sweet and smooth.
Get the recipe: Banana Pear Pudding with Chocolate Chips
Prune puree may not sound sexy, but it’s a wonder ingredient: It can take the place of oil in many baked goods, and adds beneficial fiber. To make your own, combine a cup of pitted prunes with six tablespoons hot water in a food processor and run the machine until the fruit is smooth. (These cranberry-orange cookies also include applesauce, making them even better for you.)
Get the recipe: Cranberry Orange Cookies
You know brown bananas work well in quick bread, but it turns out they’re fantastic in cookies, too. Using very ripe fruit means you can reduce the amount of sugar; it also provides extra body, so you need less butter or oil. Quick-cooking oats give these cookies nice texture, too.
Get the recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
This healthy take on fruit cake is just as flavorful as traditional versions, minus the extra calories. The recipe calls for dried cherries, raisins, apricots, figs and dates, but you can use any fruits you like. It also includes brewed tea and orange zest, which add bright notes.
Get the recipe: Fruity Spiced Tea Cake