The trick to making junk food healthy

by | Nov 5, 2015 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Trying to eat healthy can make it seem like your favorite foods – pasta, chicken wings, cakes – are off the menu. Good news: they don’t have to be! With so many healthy alternatives to fatty foods, you can feel indulgent while still eating well.

The trick to turning junk foods into healthy treats is identifying the least healthy ingredients: butter, cream, and oil are good examples. These are high-fat ingredients, which quickly increases the calorie content of your food and can be bad for your heart. Other recipes simply have too much sugar. But the bright side is most of these ingredients have more nutritious counterparts that can keep the calories in your favorite foods to a minimum.

We’ve picked out some of our favorites meals and the best recipes that “healthify” them. Greek yogurt in mac ‘n cheese? You bet. There are countless ways to sneak cleaner ingredients and veggies into these meals that get you the nutrition you need while maintaining the taste you crave. Check out our list!

1. Greek Yogurt Mac ‘n Cheese – via The Brewer and the Baker
This mac ‘n cheese still has your favorite component – cheese – and even adds bacon. But it uses Greek yogurt instead of cream, making the recipe much lower in fat, upping the protein a bit, all while maintaining the creaminess of the pasta dish. Dig in!

2. Garden-Fresh Vegetable Pizza – via
Everybody loves pizza. It’s not surprising when people who are on a diet say they miss pizza the most. It’s just delicious! Fear not – pizza is still possible. Using whole-wheat dough and limited cheese, you can cut down calories per slice. If an all-veggie pizza doesn’t sound great to you, check out this list of alternative doughs that are even lower-cal, allowing you to load up some meat and a bit more cheese.

3. Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes – via Health
When you’re getting sick of eggs or yogurt for breakfast, these pancakes are here for you. They’re only 200 calories per serving and are dairy-free (though normal milk can be swapped in for the soy milk). Plus, the blueberries give you a serving of fruit and an antioxidant boost. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

4. Lighter Buffalo Wings via Skinny Taste
Wings are the perfect party food, but they are often deep-fried and full of fat. These wings are broiled instead and burst with just as much flavor. Opt for low-fat blue cheese dressing to keep it ultra low cal and your party guests will be happy both with the taste and the calories.

5. 100 Calorie Chocolate Cake via Chocolate-Covered Katie
Have a birthday coming up? Whether it’s your own or someone else’s, you’re probably wishing for a healthier cake option. This fudgey cake is the perfect solution. If you’re feeling creative, you can pull from Katie’s index of healthy frosting recipes to switch up the flavor while maintaining the chocolate base. Now that’s something worth celebrating!

6. Healthy Homemade Cheeseburger via Epicurious
Burgers can be an easy, quick dish to whip up for lunch or dinner, but they can also be laden with fat and calories. This recipe uses extra lean beef to lower the fat and a whole wheat bun to add some fiber. If you really want to minimize fat, use turkey meat instead.

7. French Fries via
We couldn’t give you a burger recipe without some fries to go with it! The key to healthier fries is to bake them instead of going the traditional frying route. This recipe is super simple to follow and your fries will be ready in under an hour! Make them even healthier by skipping the parmesan cheese and just using spices for flavor.

8. Clean Fudgy Dark Chocolate Frosted Brownies via Amy’s Healthy Baking
These brownies look too fudgy to pass up. This recipe uses Greek yogurt to add that soft texture you love, and maple syrup for sweetener. If you’re looking for a healthy dessert that tastes like the original, this is it.

9. Breakfast Burrito with Sweet Potato Hash – via Cookie and Kate
Burritos for breakfast? You betcha. This breakfast burrito has protein from eggs and is a healthy source of carbs thanks to the sweet potato. But the best part? You can make a big batch and freeze the rest. Wrap ‘em up and throw them in the freezer. You’ll have a quick, delicious breakfast for days to come!

10. This entire list of healthy snacks via Rachael Ray
We couldn’t pick just one from this list. Sometimes, you find yourself eating well for your three main meals, but come snack time, those chips just feel irresistible. This list will be your savior. With everything from salty to sweet, these recipes will satisfy any snack craving you have.