Make 15 Junk Food Favorites Healthier and Cheaper at Home


Whether we want to admit it or not, we live in a world full of brightly packaged "foods" and gigantic restaurant portions. Sure, I'd love to say that I never have cravings and — instead — only fill my stomach with whole foods. I'm a child of the 1990s, however, and I'm pretty sure I subsisted on a lot of unhealthy eats throughout my teens. (See also: 25 Healthy Recipes for Lazy People)

When I get the cravings these days, I either try to skip these foods entirely or go online to find healthier ways to make them at home so they pack less of a processed punch.

1. Pizza Hut Breadsticks

I'm keen on those warm, crusty breadsticks, and this copycat recipe — complete with sticks and herbed Parmesan topping — looks incredibly satisfying. If you don't need 3 dozen breadsticks, you can easily make a half batch for weeknight snacking, and I'd suggest substituting half the white flour with whole wheat.

2. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

I don't care so much about whatever holiday is next, but I sure look forward to finding Reese's eggs, trees, and other shapes to stuff my face with. This delicious Peanut Butter Egg recipe uses stevia and powdered sugar for sweetness, so it's certain to be much healthier than the original!

3. Peanut Butter Twix

Next in line after Reese's, my favorite candy is peanut butter Twix. This homemade recipe looks a little time intensive, but it's certainly worth the effort. The best part? The peanut butter gets a more authentic texture with crumbled graham crackers.

4. Chicken McNuggets

I didn't know it was possible to make this next dish healthy, but these copycat Chicken McNuggets are baked and gluten-free. They are also made from real chicken breast, which is far better than whatever is in the drive-through favorite. I always used to dip mine in honey!

5. Egg McMuffin

While we're on the fast food giant, check out these Egg McMuffins made with Canadian bacon, low-calorie cheese, and whole grain English muffins. The recipe yields 12, so you can make a big batch to freeze for quick breakfasts on the go. (See also: 9 Make Ahead Freezable Breakfast Meals)

6. Pop-Tarts

I definitely ate my fair share of Pop-Tarts growing up, and not as part of a healthy breakfast. This tasty version can be filled with anything from cinnamon to jam to Nutella, but whatever you choose is bound to be better than its packaged counterpart.

7. Orange Julius

I'd get this drink when we'd visit the mall, and what a treat it was! This homemade copycat beverage is sweetened with only fruit and made vegan by using almond milk, though I'm sure you can substitute in whatever dairy you prefer.

8. Wendy's Frosty

I've seen a lot of Frosty copycat recipes, but this chocolatey one seems to be lighter than the rest. It's also Weight Watchers approved with only four points. If points don't matter and you're avoiding sugar substitutes, you could always use regular pudding mix with similar results.

9. Olive Garden Dressing

This recipe might not be entirely healthier than the restaurant mix, but it might get you eating more veggies at home. Try the Olive Garden Dressing copycat and chill in your refrigerator for weeks of crunchy salads on demand.

10. Twinkie

It doesn't get more basic than the Twinkie. Here's a healthy recipe to try that also happens to be gluten free and extra gooey. If you don't like agave nectar, you can substitute maple syrup or honey for natural sweetness.

11. Rice Krispy Treats

I may need to make this recipe tonight because I'm already drooling over these Crisp Rice Treats that are made with brown rice cereal, Ricemellow Creme, and — yes — peanut butter. Drizzle some dark chocolate on top to take this dessert over the edge.

12. Mac and Cheese

I grew up on Velveeta mac and cheese, but I don't even want to know what is in that orange melty stuff. The author of this vegan copycat recipe claims this has all the classic flavor — all without containing any animal products whatsoever. The secret? Nuts!

13. Slurpee

This Strawberry Lemonade Slurpee recipe will take your love of the frosty drink to a new level. There's still plenty of summer left to enjoy, and the author offers up several fruit swaps for different variations. I'll take a mango plus peach, please!

14. Fruit Roll-Ups

I can't even begin to quantify how many Fruit Roll-Ups I must have eaten as a kid. Now I make them at home for my own child using real fruit. Check out this (video) recipe to make naturally sweetened Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups using either an oven on low temperature or dedicated dehydrator.

15. Thin Mints

I was thrilled when I saw packaged Girl Scout style cookies pop up on grocery shelves. But they still just aren't as wholesome as homemade. Try this Paleo Thin Mints recipe for a treat even your caveman ancestors might have enjoyed.

What are your favorite (and wholesome) copycat recipes?

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Guest's picture

Instead of buying fries, you can always bake them in your oven. It’s healthier and far less expensive. Plus you get as many you want. Simply cut them, put some olive oil, and bake them in your oven. Opt for baked food over fried ones!