We all have those foods we love but maybe aren’t the most nutrient dense options for us. Today I am going to break down some of my favorite food swaps that are my go-to’s when craving something not so forgiving to my waistline (and overall health)…
Before I continue, I want to express how I believe you can indulge in your favorite treat occasionally. Our bodies are smart and know how to handle some sugar and grease here and there, but make sure these “treats” truly are occasional.
How to know if it is truly “occasional”? Set goals for yourself! For me, I set monthly goals. I have certain foods I only eat once a month. For example, my husband and I go on ice cream dates once a month so I can get my real ice cream fix. That is an occasional, monthly treat we do together. I do the same thing with other favorite foods that do not sit well with me–like pizza and french fries. Everybody’s goal is different–this is what works well for me so I do not feel deprived but am still staying on track with my healthy lifestyle.
Craving something sweet?
Chocolate bars, Reese cups, ice cream, warm chocolate chip cookies, fudgy brownies…..ahhh yes. We all crave these every now and again! If it is not time for your occasional treat, I suggest swapping the high fat, sugar and calorie dense dessert for a more nutritious option listed below:
- Dark Chocolate (70% or more) with natural peanut butter spread on top: Sweet, satisfying…dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and natural peanut butter is a good plant-based protein and fat source.
- Dessert Smoothie: Using frozen bananas, peanut butter, dark chocolate cocoa powder, and honey, you can make your own “nice cream”; if you’re feeling spunky, you can even add some frozen riced cauliflower to bump up the nutrients and fiber.
- Halo Top (Arctic Zero or Enlightened): These ice creams are low in calorie and sugar and are actually packed with protein. My favorite flavors are the s’mores, mocha chocolate chip, and strawberry Halo Top ice creams. Try to stick with 1-2 servings at a time (1/2-1 cup).
- Energy Bites: My favorite go-to snack when I need a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon. Try my recipe! Mix together 1 cup of old fashioned oats, 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut, 2/3 cup of natural peanut butter, and 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips. Refrigerate for a few hours then use a cookie scoop to form balls out of mixture. Should make about 24 balls. These also work great as a pre-workout snack.
2. Craving french fries?
I have a few hacks on fries! I LOVE french fries, and I rarely (and I mean rarely) order them because I can’t eat just a few…and they are loaded with trans fats and calories. I like it when other people order fries and I can steal a couple of them (thanks, hubs!).
- Make your own! Potatoes are high in vitamin C, potassium, B6, fiber (in the skin) and magnesium. My favorite potatoes to make are “oven fries” with Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes. Wash your potatoes well. Chop potatoes into your favorite size (I like steak fries). In a bowl, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of canola or avocado oil (high smoke point), salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, and a dash of red chili flakes. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 400 degrees flipping half way through.
- You could also use the method above for all veggies including: broccoli, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, or rutabagas to get the same effect with even more fiber and nutrients.
- Cauliflower or Broccoli Tots! I like the Green Giant brand-loaded with fiber and super quick to prepare. You could be “extra” and make your own (which I have done before), but I like the convenience of these tots when I am in a bind.
3. Craving Pizza?
Quite possibly my favorite food, pizza is a staple in my house hold…but I typically make my own crust from scratch and load the pies up on veggies and low sugar tomato sauce to make a complete, balanced meal. If you’re not into making whole wheat pizza dough from scratch (because it is work!), see some quick hacks below!
- Use 100% whole wheat English muffins (like Ezekiel brand: wholesome ingredients) as the “crust” and add your favorite toppings on top. Of course, the more veggies the better! Stick with just a sprinkle of cheese, and if you like meats on your pie, stick with one variety.
- Portabello mushroom caps as the “crust” and use the same concept from above. When cooked correctly, these can be delish! Place the mushroom on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven and place your sauce and toppings on top. Bake for another 20 or so minutes until cheese is golden.
- CAULIFLOWER CRUST! My newest obsession…you will be amazed. I love it more than real crust to be honest with you! You can make it yourself (which I am still perfecting my recipe) OR look in your local grocery store for pre-made cauliflower crusts in the freezer section. They are super convenient and most crusts have 2 per box: score! I found the Caulipower brand at Publix. Some pizza restaurants (like Village Inn) also carry the cauliflower crust option.
4. Craving burgers?
Many Americans love their burgers, especially during cook-out season. And in all honesty, it is super easy to make burgers a part of a healthful diet!
- When choosing ground meat, opt for the 85% lean/15% fat ratio. They may not be quite as juicy, but you will be saving saturated fat and calories with this option. Research shows that too much saturated fat could potentially lead to heart disease–so be mindful when choosing your meat.
- Forgo meat altogether! You heard me right…if you are truly having a hankering for a burger but are not ready for your splurge, opt for a black bean burger or some other veggie burger option. There are so many flavors out there now–Mediterranean chickpea, garden burgers, tomato basil…the list goes on!
- Ditch the bun: Make a lettuce wrap! Sometimes when eating a burger, the bun can get soggy fast, especially if you like to load it down with toppings and condiments. Get some nice leafy romaine lettuce to wrap your burger up in and add all the toppings you like. You could use iceberg, but dark green, leafy veggies are more nutrient rich containing folate, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It will taste so fresh you won’t even miss the bread. You will be swapping out the refined carbs for some veggies: that is always a win!
Try any of these hacks when you are hitting that craving slump and I promise you will be satisfied. Do you have any food swap hacks? Comment below and tell me about them! I would love to try.
Until Next Time,
Happy Chewing !
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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