All flavor, zero guilt…
A running joke of mine is that life was a lot easier before I knew what a calorie was. However, there is a little bit of truth in every joke; in a sense, ignorance is bliss. It becomes harder to enjoy foods that are more indulgent once you know what is really inside them. Awareness of the nutritional value, or lack thereof, is a rude awakening.
Here is the thing though: even knowing that certain foods are not good for us, we still choose to eat them. Every one of us has enjoyed many a skittle, burger, ice cream cone, or any other guilty pleasure that you have just thought of. It is okay to treat yourself, but the key is to make a habit of fueling your body with nutrients that help you flourish. One thing I have learned that makes this slightly easier is to find wholesome swaps for foods and drinks that do not benefit well-being as much. Here are some healthy stand-ins for “unhealthy” foods.
Bananas for Ice Cream: Probably the only connection most people know between ice cream and bananas is banana split, but there is a deeper, secret relationship with the two. For all you ice cream lovers out there, a great healthy alternative is to take frozen bananas and blend them until you get a consistency similar to the delicious treat. The fun part about this is that you can add any ingredients you want and customize the flavor to suit your mood. My personal favorite is to take frozen bananas, mint leaves, break up some dark chocolate, add a little milk for smoother blending, and see it become mint chocolate chip “ice cream”.
Rice Cakes for Bagels: Breakfast is prized for being the most important meal of the day, and a bagel with peanut butter and a banana is definitely a tasty pick. Nutrition wise, this might not be a bad combination, but many bagels are very calorie dense and lose a lot of health points because they contain refined wheat instead of whole wheat. Before you spread any cream cheese, butter, or other topping, swap it for two large rice cakes which together equal about a third of what a regular bagel does. You can also load it with some peanut butter, avocado, or hummus; or pair it with some fresh fruit for a balanced and filling start to the day.
Greek Yogurt for Mayo or Sour Cream: These two condiments are a little controversial to begin with, but for those of you who enjoy them this is a lifesaver when trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. Personally, I love mayo and sour cream and load them up like there is no tomorrow, but that habit pounds on the calories with every heaping spoonful. Alternatively, plain unsweetened greek yogurt is naturally tart like sour cream, so the flavor profile is similar and it is also super creamy, which is perfect for all of you mayo lovers out there who can’t go without it on your sandwiches. To add some math, 2 tablespoons of regular mayo contains 188 calories while the same amount of sour cream contains 48 calories. It is not too bad, but 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt challenges them with only 25. This simple swap saves you a decent amount by the end of the day!
Sliced Peppers, Carrots, or Celery for Chips: Maybe sweets are not your guilty pleasure but savory is what trips you up on the way to healthy eating. We all know that consuming the portioned size amount of chips is virtually impossible, especially when there is guacamole involved. Replacing chips for sliced veggies is a great way to keep that crunch, satisfy your cravings, and allow you to eat more, while giving you good vitamin boost in the process. So this is most definitely a win all the way because it leaves your taste buds and your body happy.
Chickpeas for Cookie Dough: Perhaps this tip might lose a lot of you here, but give me a chance. Instead of using butter, flour, and eggs–which can be super high in fat, calories, and cholesterol–substitute it with mashed chickpeas. When blended, chickpeas have a texture very similar to dough, plus, they have a naturally salty flavor which matches the flavor of the dough before you add any sweet ingredients. Try it with cinnamon, dark chocolate, some honey or maple syrup, and you have a delicious and nutritious chocolate chip cookie dough. Customize the ingredients however you want to make your favorite kind of cookie, which is now loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamins.
Cacao Powder and Almond Milk for Hot Chocolate: Moving onto drinks, a self-indulgent treat that is hot chocolate can be replaced with a different cup of joy. When the holiday season comes around, there is nothing better than to cozy up in a blanket with a hot cup of cocoa and watch Christmas movies. Though, perhaps there is a way avoid gulping down this immense amount of sugar? Fill your favorite mug with almond milk, add a spoonful of cacao powder, a few packets of stevia, some cinnamon, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. Whisk it all together, and voila, healthy hot cocoa! Almond milk is extremely light and easy on the stomach, more so than regular milk. Cacao powder is the star player in this switch because it is loaded with antioxidants, which have countless benefits for your body, and also is a natural mood booster. Sipping a cup may be beneficial during the winter months when Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder starts making rounds!
These are just a few healthy alternatives to get you going in the right direction or to help you when those cravings hit hard. I want to close by saying that there is no perfect or one-size-fits-all approach to wellness; our bodies are all different. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work for you, but it is all about trying different things to figure out the best fit. It is also important to recognize that health is a never-ending journey, so be patient with yourself as you embark on this road and you will see amazing change.