While many of us wish we could wave a magic wand over a donut or slice of layered, chocolate cake and make it healthy, unfortunately that’s not the case. But, while we don’t have magic wands, we do have healthy and just as tasty alternatives.
This is the ultimate quest of the nutrient-, calorie- and macro-minded chef. How can Italian, Tex-Mex or a favorite Asian flavor be transformed from its original version to one that fits a clean-eating lifestyle? The answer is surprisingly simple: swap some ingredients!
It is common for people to assume that when they are eating healthy, they must cut out the foods they enjoy. To some, a healthy diet means “no more pasta, no more chips and salsa, no more chocolate,” and “bland, boiled and blah,” — this is simply not true. A lasting lifestyle change is created by making choices, some substitutions and learning to eat more items that are highly nutritious — and still incredibly yummy.
It is also common for people to believe eating clean and nutritious foods takes hours and hours of preparation. While weekly meal prep can keep a person on track with their nutrition goals, it may become overwhelming with time, dishes, storage and travel. The easier the food is to swap, the more likely the habit will stick.
What are the best ways to do it, with the least amount of work?
- Make your own pasta: Using a vegetable pasta/spiral cutter, a sweet potato or zucchini can become the base for your favorite pasta dish to pump up your vegetable intake.
- Air fry everything: There’s a reason these are so popular right now — it’s easy with minimal clean up. Using an air fryer, you can crisp up veggies, make juicy chicken nuggets or add a side of French-fried potatoes without the excess oil and extra fat!
- Pack in protein: Add a scoop or two of protein powder to your pancake mix, favorite bread recipe or your morning coffee for some increased muscle-building and fat-burning potential.
- Build a bowl: Removing the tortilla, bun or bread from a meal and replacing it with mixed greens preserves the flavor and cuts the carbs!
- Kick the processed: Eating unprocessed, whole foods keeps you fuller longer. Processed foods leave the body hungry sooner. Why is this the case? Processed foods are just that — processed. The body does not need to break them down the same way a whole food item would need. Whole foods are more nutrient dense, and vegetables have high levels of fiber. A portion of chicken breast slows digestion in a positive way, allowing for more nutrient absorption.
Trying to eat healthier can still taste delicious. With a few substitutions, you can eat more and stay satiated longer, all with less caloric intake.
Replace sweetened strawberries and cream oatmeal packet with:
1 cup oatmeal, 3 strawberries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 egg
292 calories, 36.2g carbohydrates, 10.6g fat, 14.3g protein, 6g fiber
Replace a packet of fruit snacks with:
1 apple sprinkled with cinnamon
72 calories, 19.1g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0g protein, 3g fiber
Replace a burger, fries and soda with:
Lean beef burger on mixed salad greens and homemade potato fries with sparkling water
369 calories, 30g carbohydrates, 16g fat, 26g protein, 4g fiber
Replace an afternoon cookie with:
½ dark chocolate bar and 15 almonds
214 calories, 16.4g carbohydrates, 15g fat, 5g protein, 4g fiber
Replace spaghetti with bolognese with:
Zoodles (spiralized zucchini), garden vegetable marinara and turkey meatballs
205 calories, 15.3g carbohydrates, 2.4g fat, 30g protein, 5g fiber
Other popular substitutions include:
Rice becomes cauliflower or broccoli rice
Spaghetti becomes spaghetti squash
Carnitas become jackfruit
These are just a few ideas for creating a healthy, long-lasting lifestyle change without losing beloved foods. Balance is important, which is why most “all-or-nothing” diets fail. When completely eliminating food groups or flavor profiles, nutrition plans become unsustainable. The greatest success comes when making small changes over time becomes second nature.
Cheers to finding great ways to make healthy, flavorful foods!