Cure your salty junk food cravings with these better-for-you-swaps

I can pass up an entire tray of brownies, no problem. Cake? No thanks. Cookies? Blah. Not interested. But put a plate of French fries in front of me, and I become a ravenous fiend.

Related Link: 6 Reasons to Keep Carbs in Your Diet

I crave salty, fatty foods. And much like the folks on the sweet tooth side of the fence, my cravings can tax my diet, big time. So when I have a hankering for something salty, I have to strategize to avoid a major pitfall. Whatever I choose to eat has to satisfy my junk food cravings, but not derail my efforts to eat healthy.

Related Link: 5 "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating

Fortunately, our forte in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, where I test and develop recipes, is taking unhealthy foods and making healthier versions of them. So I have plenty of options for swapping out the bad foods for better ones while satisfying my yearning for junk food.

Here are 4 of the salty junk foods I crave and better-for-you-alternatives:

Onion Rings: Who doesn't love onion rings? I'll save 235 calories and 21 grams fat if I avoid the Hardee's down the street and oven fry them myself at home.
Healthier Recipe to Make At Home: Crunchy Onion Rings

Chips: You don't need a deep fryer to make crispy potato chips. You can toss thinly sliced potatoes with just a touch of olive oil, pop them in the microwave and voilá! Crispy, crunchy homemade potato chips with 8 grams less fat per serving than regular chips.
Healthier Recipe to Make At Home: Crispy Microwave Potato Chips

Fried Chicken Strips: I lust over chicken strips. But if I make chicken tenders at home, I'll save 158 calories and 16 grams fat over the order I would have chowed down on at Arby's.
Healthier Recipe to Make At Home: BBQ Chicken Tenders.

Fries: Who said French fries have to be fried? Our Oven Fries make a great appetizer or side dish and come in at 278 calories and 14 grams less fat than their deep-fried counterpart. Enough said.
Healthier Recipe to Make At Home: Oven Fries (see the recipe below)

Oven Fries
Active time: 5 minutes | Total: 25 minutes

Coated with olive oil and baked in a hot oven, these fries are soft and buttery inside and crisp on the outside-the perfect combination.

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss potato wedges with oil, salt and thyme (if using). Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet.
3. Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.

Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 102 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 291 mg sodium; 405 mg potassium.

By Hilary Meyer

EatingWell assistant editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

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