I like to think of myself as a health-conscious person. If I know something is good, I’ll make at least one solid go at trying to incorporate it in my life. Exercise, no problem (interval training, HIIT, lifting, yoga, pilates, stretching, etc etc. – they all make an appearance in my fitness regimen, although, some may get a little more of the limelight that others). Food, no problem eating it, and I genuinely like vegetables (which I think is half the battle, so great). The problem arises in what else I love:
– Bar Food (pizza, cheeseburgers, fries, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks…)
– Especially when accompanied by booze (and unfortunately for calories’-sake, I’ve really come to broaden my beer horizons – Why, hello, Molson, Yuengling, the occasional IPA, ambers, Sam Adams ;D)
– Annnnd sweets (my mother-in-law relishes the opportunity to showcase her dessert creations when I’m at her dinner table, and my aunts all make a very special, loving effort to help me find my way face-first in a vat of cake and ice cream whenever I visit).
As a result, when left to my own devices, I try to make some healthful substitutions to keep my day-to-day consumption not so conducive to an extra 25 lb. flub factor (guaranteed to make its all-too-eager appearance via a muffin-top/donut-like ring around my midsection… Because those are the genes I was blessed with ;D)
So here are a few of my attempts at healthy swaps:
– Yogurt for Ice Cream
I realize many people dislike yogurt, so if that’s the case for you, there’s no getting around this one. Maybe try frozen yogurt? For me, however, I’ve found that I’m happy to mix some peanut butter in with some vanilla flavored Greek yogurt and maybe top it with a banana or graham crackers or a FiberOne brownie.
Somewhere along the line, I was able to quit my Dairy Queen blizzard habit (Reese’s, cookie dough, cookie jar, oreo, etc etc etc – DQ and I had a very involved love affair…) thanks to this gem, and I haven’t looked back…
– Spaghetti Squash for Regular Pasta
After reading about spaghetti squash on Tina’s blog and then various others, I set out to find one at my grocery store and gave it whirl.
I’ve enjoyed spaghetti squash with plain red sauce, pesto sauce, tossed with sauteed veggies & olive oil, on its own (when I’m impatient & in the middle of scraping it out of the shell), with chicken sausage and sauce, etc. It’s tasty, has fewer calories and more vitamins than regular pasta, and it’s easy to make. I just clean the outside of the squash, carefully poke fairly deep holes all around it with a large, sharp chopping knife, and then I microwave it on its side on a plate for 15 – 20 minutes (depending on how large it is) rotating it every 7 minutes or so to cook evenly. Once it’s done, I let it cool for 5+ minutes before cutting it length-wise (being careful not to burn myself because the innards are piping hot by this point) and then I get down to forking out the good stuff :D! I’ve read lots of horror stories of spaghetti squashes exploding in microwaves, so take care to check on it frequently to make sure it isn’t reaching the danger zone. If you’d rather not risk it with a microwave, you can bake it or boil it.
– Mashed Cauliflower for Mashed Potatoes or Rice
I attempted my first mashed cauliflower last week and was overall pleased with the results. I’m not much for lots of fuss during any cooking process, so I opted for the simplest method I could find: boil it (approximately 10 minutes), mash it (or use a blender/mixer/food processor if you’re partial to fancy kitchen gizmos), mix in plain Greek yogurt, mash some more. My mashing wasn’t quite up to par and the Greek yogurt wasn’t exactly my favorite taste to this concoction (I suspect I just needed to add a bit less), but it proved quite enjoyable and versatile. It can be used in lieu of mashed potatoes obviously, but because mine wasn’t mashed super well and therefore kinda lumpy still, it served very well as a rice substitute for homemade burritos! There are lots of variations on how to prepare mashed cauliflower based on your preferences/tastes (mix the cauliflower with milk, butter, various spices, sour cream, Greek yogurt, whatever), so play around and give it at try! Similar to the spaghetti squash, it’s lower in calories than potatoes/rice and has a nice boost in vitamins 😀
– “Homemade” Bar Food
Let’s get one thing straight – all that’s “homemade” about these food items is that they were physically cooked in my home. Please do not confuse this with “made from scratch” because I don’t do ‘dat.
1. Cheeseburger & Fries – basically I figure anything I cook in my home is significantly lower in calories and grease, so that’s already a win. Therefore, if I’m willing to put forth the effort, usually what I’ll do to satisfy my cheeseburger & fries craving is cook myself a Boca burger (I’m partial to the “original vegan” & “grilled vegetable” varieties lately), top it with cheese and/or avocado, salsa, onion, spinach/lettuce-I-have-on-hand, put it between 2 pieces of wheat bread, and bake some frozen steak-cut french fries (just local grocery store brand – such as this). I’ll then serve it with a side of ranch dressing I have in the fridge (I LOVE dipping
anything I can feasibly ingest my fries in ranch dressing – probably Hidden Valley Reduced Fat is what I have…) and ketchup and mustard (I like options :D). This tends to work for me because usually what I’m mostly craving are the fries and simply the burger “ensemble.”
2. Pizza – Unfortunately, I haven’t braved the world of making my own pizza (with cauliflower crust or homemade dough and all the individual fixin’s). Therefore, my go-to calorie-dense-pizza substitute is simply a frozen pizza. It used to be the Kroger brand deluxe or supreme or veggie frozen pizza,
but lately I’ve gone with Red Baron (because Kroger didn’t follow me to Harrisburg – Jerks!).
I’m under no delusions that this is good for me (tons of sodium, who knows how many awful kinds of preservatives and Crayola color additives and arsenic and probably dog meat, blah blah blah), but I do believe it’s less bad for me than ordering that stromboli from my favorite local establishment or any delivery pan dish or deep dish pizza from a restaurant. Soooo, it’s a winner in my book. [NOTE: frozen pizza is primarily reserved for weekend drunk food and not a typical mid-week healthy food swap staple.]
– Pretzels for Chips & Hummus/Salsa/Avocado for Dip
I just plain DO NOT keep chips in my house. I cannot be trusted around Doritos (love me some Cooler Ranch – go figure), and though I don’t even like regular potato chips all that much, I’ve put a hurtin’ on a bag of Lays-type potato chips one too many times. Therefore, I opt for pretzels. I generally manage to not down pretzels by the bag-ful and feel they must have a slightly higher nutritional merit than potato chips (my hands don’t get greasy after handling pretzels, so obviously this is true), hence therefore ergo, why I keep pretzels around and not chips.
And as for dip, well, mixing Velveeta cheese or Cheez Whiz with salsa is just too much work, as are those Hidden Valley Ranch packets to be mixed with sour cream. Not to mention, I rarely have those cheeses on hand (though, I was a BIG Cheez Whiz fan from about the age of 3 to 10 – can I get a Cheez Whiz & Zesta saltine cracker up in herr’!!) or sour cream. So instead, I use what I do have on hand for “dip,” which includes, salsa, avocado, sometimes Ranch dressing, and hummus.
My basis in choosing these substitutions has a lot to do with making healthy swaps, but I also take into consideration price (I’m a generic-lover through-and-through, I’m intimidated by big Whole Food-type stores, and generally I prefer to eat at home rather than out at a restaurant simply because of the cost difference) and minimal-required-cooking-effort. Soooo, some of my suggestions may seem a bit contradictory or half-assed – this, I realize.
Now, with ALLLL that being said, I’m human, so don’t think I’ve quit all the things I’ve created substitutions for completely. If this girl wants a sundae, you’s best know I’m gonna put a hurtin’ on a big ass hot fudge brownie sundae (with peanut butter!). If I have a hankerin’ for a fatty f***in’ cheeseburger (as dear ol’ dad likes to calls it), by all means, I’m going to order a gargantuan cheeseburger. With the greasy bun. With the fries. With a side of ranch! (Hold the mayo, though, obviously – gotta watch that cholesterol, sheesh!) My intent isn’t to cut these out of my life – they’re oh-so-heavenly! But rather, I want to have some other foods I can fall back on in my daily life that won’t send me into a heart-diseased-food-coma.
– What’s a healthy swap you fall back on?
– Fortunately, I have a husband who’s supportive and open to my healthy food swaps (read: he’ll eat WHATEVER you put in front of him) – if you have a significant other, do you have any trouble introducing healthy foods or substitutes into your meal-planning?
– Do you have any relatives or friends who just relish the chance to stuff you silly with their delectable edibles??