Six Junk Foods That Are Actually Sort Of Good For You

Six Junk Foods That Are Actually Sort Of Good For You

Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson

Photos by Sarah Takforyan , Jon Tyson , Bill Craighead , Charisse Kenion, Juan Manuel Giraldo Grisales ,Daniel Hjalmarsson , Shawn Fields on Unsplash

Snacking; a favourite past time of mine and one that I guiltily share with many of you. When the cravings strike, carrot sticks and health food bars just aren’t going to cut it but thankfully there are junk foods out there that aren’t as unhealthy as you’d think.

We’re in March now and let’s face it, the terms ‘New Year’s Resolution’ and ‘healthy eating’ probably seem like distant memories. But the struggle still remains between our id and our conscience when snack attacks strike; I know it’ll taste good and satisfy my craving but I’ll probably still end up hungry and therefore cranky, and probably get a pimple break-out to boot.

Luckily, there are plenty of brands out there that have recognised our love of junk food and the internal struggle with our healthy conscience that goes with it. Without further ado, because snack o’clock is fast approaching, here are the six junk foods that you can feel less guilty reaching for.


A favourite for movies and romance, popcorn can also be a healthy snack. Opting for popcorn brands that are low in fat and high in fibre can provide you with healthy junk food (yes, I know it’s an oxymoron). According to BBC Good Food, you should opt for a popcorn portion of 25g-30g and although there are plenty of brands out there claiming to be healthy, you should always check the nutritional information to find out how calorific and high in sugar these options are. Devon’s own Portlebay Popcorn come recommended by The Independent on their top ten healthy snacks.

The most fool-proof way to enjoy healthy popcorn? DIY. Buy kernels to air pop yourself in the microwave and then season with your own herbs and spices for a healthy yet full-on flavour.

junk foods popcorn from kernel to corn on black surface next to bowl

Gummy treats

Before you get too excited, no, not all gummy treats fall under the healthy snacking umbrella. There are some surprises out there, however. Fruit Pastilles, that old chestnut that’s been around since 1881, contain 25% fruit juice and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. They obviously still contain sugar, though not as much as brands such as Haribo, but again, all in moderation.

Starburst, probably more chewy than gummy, are also pleasantly surprising, containing concentrated apple juice and 22g of sugar per pack – less than a large apple.

The top healthy gummy treats, according to Good To Know, are Guzzle Puzzle. From the National Confectionary Company, these sweets contain entirely natural flavourings, including orange, cinnamon, raspberry and lime. They also come with the added bonus of a game-like experience; by fitting different puzzle pieces together, you can come up with flavour combinations of your own.

On the whole with gummy treats, and sweets in general, choose those with the lowest sugar content and opt for natural flavourings. No matter how healthy the branding, remember, they are still sweets…

junk foods pile of colourful gummy worms

Ice cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! And now you can satisfy that screaming. As with all good things, if you don’t overdo it, ice cream can provide you with some good stuff, including nutrients, calcium and protein. Opt for brands that have probiotics and B-vitamins, as well as that close cousin of ice cream, frozen yogurt. Stock up your freezer now with brands such as Halo Top, Frill, Perfect World (vegan) and Yoomoo (be warned, this one has a high sugar content!).

raspberry popsicles with fresh raspberries on white worktop


My personal weakness, crisps go well with everything; lunch, cider, rainy days… It’s estimated that us Brits consume 6 billion packets of crisps a year and we have the largest flavour selection in Europe. You will need to be potato chip choosy, however, to stick to that healthy junk food option.

Kettle chips are on the borderline; they contain nothing artificial and no MSG, but they still have quite a high fat content. Hula Hoops are low in calorie and saturated fats on the surface, but the fat content is proportionately high for a small 25g bag. Sunbites rank a lot better, providing a third of an adult’s daily amount of wholegrain while having half the fat of a packet of ready salted crisps.

One of my favourites, and one that has thankfully come out fairly well on the healthy crisp spectrum, is salt and vinegar Squares. Choc-full of flavour, these crisps have very low amounts of saturated fat and are relatively low in calories. We’re not advocating them as part of a daily healthy diet routine, however, but if you’re going to grab a bag, these are a good option to plump for.

Another favourite of mine, Wotsits, comes in at under 100 calories per bag and are relatively low fat, being baked rather than fried. Skips, my least favourite, come out top with 78 calories per bag and are made with 100% sunflower oil, with no artificial colours or flavours and no MSG. Finally, French Fries prove another good option in low-guilt snacking; low in fat and with less than 100 calories per bag.

junk foods crisps on yellow background

Tortilla chips

You could argue that these come under the crisp category, but as they’re not potato-based, I’m giving them a sub-title all of their own. From supermarket own brands to big brands, healthier versions of the much-loved Mexican-inspired chip are emerging. Look out for high fibre and whole grain options, as well as chips made from beans and even seaweed. The Independent recommends Metcalfe’s Skinny Corn’ers which are made with expanded corn and popped in a triangular mould to avoid using deep-fat fryers.

paper bag of tortilla chips next to bowls of tomato salsa and guacamole

The dark side, of chocolate that is

Hallelujah, chocolate is on the list! Dark chocolate has the advantage of tending to be lower in sugar as well as containing a decent amount of fibre and protein. Luckily, due to its intense flavour, it is also quite difficult to overeat dark chocolate. Choose bars that contain 70% cacao or higher to avoid high sugar levels.

broken chunks of dark chocolate on white surface

Just give in

Giving in to your cravings every day? Not the best plan for a healthy lifestyle, but giving in to your cravings every now and then will satisfy your mood without bringing on too much of that snacking guilt.

Nutritionist Tamar Samuels explains:

“There’s something to be said about mindful eating. If you do have a craving, sometimes it is best to honour it. Don’t eat the whole bag. Instead, serve yourself and put a portion of the snack you want on a plate or in a bowl so you can be more intentional about portion size and more mindful about how much you need to feel satisfied.” (Huffington Post)

There is a growing trend, particularly for those following healthy eating plans like Slimming World, to keep ‘treat tins’. Get a box or clear a shelf in the cupboard to stock with your healthier junk food options. Put post-its on them or label the packets with sharpie markers to make clear the calorie/fat/syn values and then when the cravings call, you have reasonable options to satisfy them. Because let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, no one is going to stick rigidly to snacking on crudités.

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