5 Junk Food Hacks That Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier Without Compromising On Flavor

As you might have noticed, today is National Fried Chicken Day— basically Christmas in July. Humans eat junk foods because they are delicious, and a lot of us don't have the desire or the will power to cut them out completely. Find out how to have your cake and eat it too with these awesome junk food hacks that taste just like the real deal but cut out a lot of the unhealthy ingredients... you know, for tomorrow, after you get your fried chicken fix.

When I moved to California from North Carolina, one of the first things that I noticed was that food available in restaurants was, on the whole, significantly healthier. The reasons for that can be summed up in three key points.

1. Southern food is historically unhealthy. This is true for a bunch of reasons— including a fascination with preserving family histories (like before the invention of the refrigerator), the absurdly hot summers (you see the trend yet?), and the widespread poverty of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (I'll never be hungry again!).

2. California is where all of the vegetables come from, and that is barely an exaggeration.

3. The modern culture of coastal California is very health conscious. Whether that is because Hollywood is here or because it's a beautiful day for a jog 365 days a year, Californians are an active people.

At any rate, the junk foods that were once my convenience foods became significantly more sparse once I made the journey to the west coast. And making junk foods in your home makes you painfully aware of just how much butter you're actually consuming.

So, without further ado, here are 6 junk food hacks to make your favorite fatty foods healthier while maintaining all of the flavor that makes it so mouthwatering in the first place.

Get on the unripened jackfruit bandwagon

Jackfruit is basically a vegan's dream food. You'll find it at your local asian market in a can. This superfood is a great way to trick all of your friends, because when you cook it, it magically turns into a low-calorie, vitamin-rich shredded pork with one fifteenth of the fat content. All you have to do is dump a can in your crock pot with some white vinegar and water and four hours later, drain, add your favorite BBQ sauce, and poof! Make sure to get unripened jackfruit, otherwise this trick doesn't work.

Lose the mayo

Did you know that there are more than 10 times the calories in mayonnaise than there are in mustard? Ten times! Mayonnaise is needlessly terrible for you, and you can easily achieve the same ends without the comically unhealthy condiment. Try this awesome Mediterranean tuna salad that uses hummus instead of mayo. Mustard aioli is also ridiculously delicious.

Embrace the froyo life

Frozen yogurt has about half the saturated fat content of ice cream, and somehow, it's the same amount of wonderful. It sounds obvious once you read "frozen yogurt" and "ice cream" a few times, side by side. This no-churn frozen yogurt recipe from Gluten Free On A Shoestring is almost impossible to screw up and totally cost-effective since it doesn't require you to buy new gear for your kitchen. Extra points if you adapt this recipe into a froyo cake for your next birthday bash.

Bake instead of fry

Let me add a disclaimer to this item— baking is not a suitable alternative for every fried food (ie. chicken). But you can get pretty close with french fries and onion rings. Damn Delicious has a great recipe for baked onion rings that is right up there with their fried counterparts. Pro tip: marinate the onions in Sriracha for 30 minutes before breading for an extra kick.

Have your cake and eat it too— amazing flourless protein cake

There is a lot of debate surrounding the actual health benefits of cutting out gluten from your diet (unless you actually have a sensitivity, of course), but there's pretty much no debate whatsoever that a protein-packed cake is better than a starchy one. Check out this amazingly decadent chocolate cake recipe from Making Thyme For Health that's made with two cups of cooked quinoa. No one is claiming that this cake is a health food by any means, but I wouldn't feel too bad about eating a slice for breakfast every now and then.

Images: Tastefully Mismatched/Etsy; Fo Reals Life; Tori Avey; Gluten Free On A Shoestring; Damn Delicious; Making Thyme For Health