In a statement that's only half-joking, snacks can sometimes be the difference between life and death. If you're having a terrible day, there's always life's guilty pleasures to help you turn things around and some good old-fashioned junk food falls squarely in that category.
Here comes some good news: turns out there are plenty of "junk foods" out there that are actually way healthier for you than you think. So that means you can greedily snack away and not be doing as much damage as a "guilty" pleasure would normally suggest. That's awesome, unless the reason you wanted to eat junk food in the first place is exactly because it's bad for you. That'll happen.
Regardless, here are nine foods you don't actually have to feel that bad about snacking on:
1. Potato chips
If chips are your go-to snack, choosing original-flavored chips devoid of MSG (such as kettle chips) is actually not that bad for you. Stripped of all the extra flavoring, you're basically just eating potatoes with a little salt and oil.
2. Cacao Nibs
Yes. Chocolate. It's actually pretty good for you if you eat forms that are low in sugar — cacao nibs fall in that category and also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants. Win-win.
Yeah, the catch is that you need to eat ginger or oatmeal cookies since they have less sugar, but still. Cookies. And you can really feel great about it if you replace your normal cookies with gluten-free ones.
4. Gummy snacks
Most gummy snacks are full of sugar, but if you go for natural, dye-free ones, you're much better off. Try Surf Sweets, Newman's Own Organics or GoNaturally hard candy.
5. Pork Rinds
Yeah, it's deep-fried pork skin. But a one-ounce serving has zero carbs, 17 grams of protein and just 9 grams of fat. Furthermore, 43 percent of a pork rind's fat is unsaturated, aka the "good" category of fat, and another 13 percent is stearic acid, a saturated fat that doesn't raise cholesterol levels.
It's not food, but let's still count it. Alcohol, consumed in small quantities of course, can actually be pretty good for you. It can even lower your risk of heart disease.
7. Beef Jerky
Unhealthy meat loaded with preservatives, right? Wrong.
Beef jerky is super high in protein and doesn't raise insulin, which signals your body to store fat. Of course, you need to opt for the stuff that doesn't include MSG and tons of sodium, so look for all-natural ingredients.
8. Sour Cream
This isn't usually the type of thing you'd scoop your hands into and eat on its own, but it's a great substance to smear on other types of food you might love. But it turns out that a serving of sour cream, two-tablespoons' worth, is just 52 calories. That's half as much as a single tablespoon of mayonnaise.
Coconut has more saturated fat ounce for ounce than butter does, but half of it is lauric acid, which boosts HDL cholesterol (good) more than LDL cholesterol (bad), so consuming it decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease overall. The other half is composed mostly of "medium-chain" fatty acids, which have almost no effect on cholesterol levels.
Cover image: David Goehring via Flickr