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Junk food, the healthy way

Junk food was a rarity in my house growing up, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat it. Junk food is ubiquitous in America. Rejecting junk food feels a little bit un-American. How can you have a party without nachos or give up milkshakes?

Sure, a little bit of junk food isn’t the worst thing, but lots of us want to be able to indulge semi-regularly, not semi-annually.


How can you enjoy junk food without worrying about it?

The answer is to make it your own. Lots of recipes have far more salt, fat, and sugar than they really need. Plus, when you’re making things in your kitchen, you’re not using the ingredients we worry about the most.

Here’s how we’ve made some un-healthy recipes a little bit better for you. Remember, these are still special treats and should be enjoyed in moderation.


Pizza Pockets

You can turn any pizza recipe into pizza pockets. Just stretch the dough into an oval, pile the toppings in one side, and fold it over into a pocket. Brush it with a dab of olive oil to give it that nice brown on the outside.

I love the chickpea pizza recipe in The Meals to Heal Cookbook. Homemade pizzas have been in regular rotation in my house since I got the cookbook.

Yes, homemade pizza is better with a pizza stone or a brick oven. Are they necessary to come up with something delicious? Absolutely not.

Pizzas are a great way to use up the veggies in my fridge, but if I haven’t been to the store in a while, I’ve been known to make them with canned tomatoes, artichokes, and olives. I also like to add olives and corn flour to the pizza dough. They’re delicious both with and without cheese.


Queso dip

When people say something vegan tastes just like the non-vegan version, they’re almost always lying. Vegan queso is one of the few times people might not notice that this cheese isn’t actually cheese. This is due in part to the fact that queso isn’t actually cheese, either.

2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups water
1 cup diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Jalapeños to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Chili powder to taste

Add nutritional yeast, flour, water, and seasonings to a saucepan on medium heat. Stir it constantly until it becomes thick. Turn off the heat and stir in the margarine. Stir in tomatoes and jalapeño.



Like pizza, nachos aren’t inherently bad for you. There are plenty of nacho toppings that are pretty good for you, like:

  • Avocado
  • Vegan queso
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Balkan or Greek yogurt
  • Chives

Take a look at the ingredients list on your bag of chips, as there are brands out there offering organic, multigrain options with heirloom corn and added nutrients from flax seeds.

Some people swap tortilla chips for grilled zucchini, peppers, or potatoes, but that seems wrong to me. Bean chips are pretty delicious if you’re trying to keep it gluten free. If multigrain or homemade tortilla chips aren’t healthy enough for you, you can swap them out with pita chips.


Malted Milkshakes

Malt mixes like Ovaltine are packed with sugar. The funny thing is, it’s delicious without all that added sugar.

Maybe you’ll luck out and your local grocery store will carry malt. I get mine on Amazon. Sure, you can make a milkshake without malt, but then it’s a milkshake without malt.

I make these in my Nutribullet on an embarrassingly regular basis. I play around with the ingredients, but the general template is something like this:

  • 1-2 teaspoons of malt powder
  • ⅓ cup frozen fruit
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1-2 scoops ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)
  • Powdered milk to add thickness

While it’s not a traditional milkshake flavor, avocado milkshakes are basically the best ever.

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