Junk Food That Is Actually Good For You

Food cravings can be a very real part of everyday life, leaving many of us just wanting to stumble upon healthy snacks that taste like junk food. And the good news is, great recipes are definitely out there; it usually just takes a little research and prep work.

In an article for U.S. News and World Report, journalist and author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us Michael Moss said that the average American eats twice the recommended daily value of salt each day, and consumes around 70 pounds of sugar per year. He also noted that over the years, products in grocery stores that were never traditionally sweet, like tomato sauce and salad dressings, have been sweetened, and he claimed that many of the food industry's top executives don't even eat their own products because of health reasons. He stressed that most processed foods have been designed to look and taste irresistible.

So it's no wonder that so many of us crave junk food — it's literally specifically created to make us want more, according to food scientist Steven Witherly in an article for The Huffington Post. It can be incredibly difficult to reduce junk food from our diets, even when we genuinely want to be eating healthy foods. If you're looking to learn more about nutritious options options, there are some recipes out there that are very tasty. Here are nine foods that you won't believe are actually nutritious.

1. Two-Ingredient Pancakes

Made with only eggs and mashed bananas, two-ingredient pancakes might sound a little strange, but they are actually an awesome substitute for the usual breakfast treat, which can pack 4.3 grams of sugar per serving, according to LIVESTRONG. Certified fitness instructor and fitness YouTuber Cassey Ho has her own how-to video specifically on how to make this recipe, and she noted that they're not only high protein and contain only natural sugars, but recommended them for a pre-workout snack. And you can absolutely add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

2. Black Bean Brownies

Brownies made from black beans, as opposed to the traditional flour base, may sound kind of crazy, but they actually make for a fudgey, rich dessert high in fiber and protein (I promise — they're good)! Natural medicine expert and clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe highly recommended black bean brownies and included a recipe on his YouTube channel.

3. Chickpea Cookie Dough Dip

This is another one that might sound a little strange, but cookie dough dip made from chickpeas is actually an awesome way to get in some nutrition while also satisfying your sweet tooth. Healthy cookbook author and fitness fanatic Camilla Saulsbury says instead of "a sugar rush and the risk of eating raw eggs, this power-packed dip offers energy, nutrition, and loads of fiber and protein."

4. Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Fitness instructor and YouTuber Alyssia Sheikh recommended baked sweet potato fries as an excellent alternative to french fries, not only noting that baked foods are way better for your body than fried foods, but that sweet potatoes offer great nutrition and antioxidants in and of themselves. Her personal recipe focuses on making sure your baked fries turn out crispy.

5. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Sheikh also recommended making your own cauliflower crust for pizza. She sites the refined carbohydrates in pizza crust as the main reason pizza is typically not the healthiest meal option, and said a cauliflower-based crust eliminates refined carbs from the equation. Also, if you're not ready to go full force with the cauliflower, she also has a great two-ingredient whole wheat pizza crust recipe that is still a more healthful option than the typical pizza you might buy outside your home.

6. Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Healthy lifestyle expert and fitness author Danette May has a recipe for peanut butter cups with actual health benefits that will satisfy even the most serious peanut butter fan. They only contain five ingredients and use coconut oil and natural, no sugar added peanut butter. I've tried these myself, and the key is to not expect an exact replica of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but rather a chocolatey, peanut butter dessert that tastes good in its own right.

7. Homemade Peppermint Patties

New York Times bestselling healthy cookbook author Angela Liddon has a recipe for homemade peppermint patties, which also pack nutritional value. She uses almond milk and ground cashews to help create the creamy center and dark chocolate chips for the outer chocolate coating. It might seem like a lot of work, but you end up with several dozen healthful peppermint patties that you can keep in your freezer or bring to parties.

8. Chia Seed Pudding

Sheikh has a super simple recipe for overnight chia seed pudding that contains omega-3s, antioxidants, high quality protein, and fiber. You can also play around with the recipe and adjust it to your specific liking by adding sweetener, fruit, chocolate, or whatever else will satisfy your sweet tooth.

9. Homemade Chips

Healthy cookbook author and health food blogger Melissa King has a recipe for healthy sweet potato chips with all the health benefits of sweet potatoes, without the added salts and oils of store-bought brands. These are great if you want something savory, but want more crunch than you'd get out of a fry.

Eating healthful, nutritious foods should never mean you feel deprived. With a few creative solutions there are actually tons of ways to satisfy your cravings while also getting some genuine health benefits. So go forth and enjoy!

Images: Sharon/Stacy Spensley/Helen Alfvegren/Steven Depolo/Flickr; YouTube (6)