3 Junk Food Makeovers to Satisfy Your Inner Kid

Yes to nostalgia, no to preservatives.

Before adulthood, oil changes, and knowledge of the preservative TBHQ, there was a blissful era of childhood snacking. Summer road trips meant stopping at a the nearest Texaco station for Reese’s Cups and potato chips, and I vividly remember sneaking into the pantry for a pop-tart after a rousing game of Truth-or-Dare.

Even though I know that the ingredients in some of my favorite childhood snacks are less than beneficial, they still hold a special place in my heart—especially the ones with animal print coloring (does anyone else remember Zebra Cakes?). My love for these artificially-flavored, sodium-packed treats led me to the kitchen to brainstorm how I could remake some of my favorite treats into (slightly) healthier versions.

These snacks still offer the more indulgent ingredients, like chocolate, but skip the pesky GMOs and corn syrup. Now I’m obsessed with junk food makeovers. They’re fun to make and pair perfectly with S Club 7 as your kitchen soundtrack.

Cool Ranch Dorito Popcorn


Doritos: Ultimate lunchtime currency and culprit of coating your fingers with bright orange dust. Cool Ranch was my favorite flavor; the blue bag made it look all the more “exotic.” This recipe uses popcorn, adding a hefty dose of fiber. The “seasoning” is as close as you can get to the actual cool ranch flavor without dialing up Frito-Lay, and any leftovers can be saved to top eggs or poultry for a nostalgic evening meal.


8 cups freshly popped organic popcorn
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp dried chives
¼ tsp dried thyme
4 tbsp organic Irish butter, melted (for a vegan recipe, use canola or safflower oil)


Add the nutritional yeast, parsley, black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chives, and thyme into a spice grinder. Pulse until combined into a fine powder.

Drizzle the butter or oil over the popcorn and add the seasonings. Toss to coat.

Homemade Reese’s Cups


While the chocolate and peanut butter combination can be achieved in a variety of ways, it’s hard to beat the texture and flavor profile of a Reese’s cup. The interior is smooth and salty, with a thin layer of chocolate on top and a surrounding shell of the perfect width and thickness. This recipe recreates the magic of this Halloween staple, without the TBHQ. With only three ingredients, it’s crazy that these bad boys actually taste like the real thing.


1 1/2 cups of chopped organic semi-sweet chocolate*
3/4 cup of organic peanut butter*
2 tbsp of coconut oil
½ tsp salt


Prepare a double-boiler by filling a saucepan about 1/3 with water and placing a heat-proof bowl on top. Add the chocolate to the top bowl and turn the burner to medium-high heat. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold and stir the chocolate until fully melted.

Combine the peanut butter with the coconut oil and salt. Set aside.

Line a muffin tin with eight to ten paper liners. Add a small spoonful of melted chocolate into each cup, using the back of the spoon to help push the chocolate slightly up the sides (this allows a little nest for the peanut butter to sit inside.) Freeze for ten minutes.

Remove from freezer, and add a small spoonful of the peanut butter mixture. Add another small scoop of chocolate to the top of the peanut butter and smooth over. Return to the freezer and allow to freeze for thirty more minutes. Store in the freezer or refrigerator for up to one week.

*There is some flexibility in your choice in chocolate and peanut butter. I like semi-sweet because I like that kinda dark/kinda milky thing, but feel free to use dark, milk, or vegan chips. For a low-fat version, you can substitute PB2 for the peanut butter, or use any nut butter of your choice.

Tropical Fruit Leather


Fruit roll-ups were one of my favorite lunchtime snacks. They were so tart and weirdly stretchy, quickly climbing the food ranks to become one of the most sought-after cafeteria treats. Now that I’m older, I realize that I can find that same vivid color and juiciness in Mother Nature with mangos and strawberries. The combination of these fruits creates a chewy and bright piece of fruit leather, perfect for on-the-go adventures.


1 cup hulled and quartered strawberries
1 cup chopped mango (about one)
¼ cup water
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp lemon juice
The juice of one orange


Heat the oven to 175 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

Add the strawberries, mango, agave, and water to a large saucepan and heat over medium until just bubbling. Remove from heat and pour into a blender or food processor. Add the lemon and orange juice and pulse into smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the purée on the lined baking sheet to about 1/8-inch thickness. Spread as evenly and flat as possible to ensure even cooking. Too thin will create a brown, crispier fruit leather. Bake for 3 to 4 hours, or until the fruit is not sticky but slightly tacky. Baking time will vary depending on your oven and humidity.

Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking sheet. To serve, place a sheet of similar sized wax paper on top of the fruit leather. Gently peel off the leather and wax and transfer to a cutting board. Slice the fruit leather into desired sized strips, roll, and tie with a string.

Photos by Amanda Kohr

amanda-kohrAmanda Kohr is a 24-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet via her blog at cozycaravan.com