I recently had the eye-opening experience of losing several pounds in just a few days while at an R&R retreat at Kripalu, in Massachusetts. As a normally very active person, I wasn't doing much more actual "working out" than I normally do, but there was one big difference in my days — I wasn't cooking, preparing food while hungry, or searching for snacks at odd hours. In fact, I didn't think about food much at all each day until I entered the dining hall at mealtime and chose from many delicious, always-healthy options in front of me. 


For me, that seemed to do the trick. With no sweet drinks, alcohol, dessert, processed foods or "treats" around, I ate big plates of food three times a day — and still lost weight quickly and without expecting to. It made me realize how all my little "snacks" really add up to a larger pants size. So it was perfect timing that I received a new book that shows you how to make better choices than those seriously unhealthy snacks that we all eat more often than we like to admit.


Doing all the research about what's good for you and what's not can be so frustrating. The team behind the website Naturally Savvy understands that frustration, and is here to help, with "Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks." The best part about the book is that it shows — in colorful images — the treats most of us get from vending machines or stash in the cupboard — and then shows the actual pictures and brands of healthier alternatives. 


The authors also detail what's not-so-good in the conventional brands, so you know exactly why Fudgsicles aren't good for you (corn syrup, polysorbate 80, and cocoa processed with alkali) and what a better alternative would be (in this case several natural brands are listed). And while some of the "healthy alternative" brands are those that might be hard to find outside of a health food store or Whole Foods, there are plenty that aren't. For example, a better choice than Skinny Cow Low Fat Ice Cream (which contains both unhealthy trans fats and high fructose corn syrup), is Breyer's Smooth and Dreamy 1/2 fat. 


Cold treats aren't the only categories covered, of course (but these are my faves, so this is the section I turned to immediately); others include chips, dips and party foods, cookies, chocolate, cake and other desserts, granola bars and other on-the-go snacks, candy, and soda and other drinks. And for those who want more info, the first few chapters of the book go into detail about what unhealthy ingredients to look for (there's even a worst ingredients pull-out chart), what healthy substitutes are still satisfying and delicious, and a list of Naturally Savvy-approved brands. But I loved that you can just jump into the book and start learning without wading through earlier chapters if you like. 


Especially if you are at your wits' end trying to find healthier food for picky family members, this book is invaluable. If you or your loved ones are going to eat junk food sometimes, "Unjunk Your Junk Food" will show you how to do so with fewer toxic ingredients — and more healthy ones — while still feeding your sweet (and salty) tooth. 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

'Unjunk Your Junk Food': Real alternatives to unhealthy treats
Learn how to 'unjunk' your life in this helpful new guidebook.