Food For Thought

            Eating healthy is a big struggle for a lot of us with busy days and juggling between work, errands, school, kids, cleaning, etc. After a busy day the last thing you want to do is peel vegetables and prepare meat to provide a proper and nutritious meal so sometimes we opt for the easy options such as frozen meals, fast food, or munching our way through the meal. I, personally, am guilty of this. After a long day of class I will go for the first thing I see in the fridge because I am too impatient to wait for a proper meal.  Also, after a long and stressful day many of us are guilty of indulging in comfort foods, known as “stress eating”. This little indulgence is not a bad thing once in while but most of those favorite comfort foods tend to be higher in calories and fats which as we discussed in healthy hype #1, overload of any food in high quantity is what can lead to weight gain.

Fulfilling Cravings with Less Guilt:

            Anyone else out there have that sweet tooth that you just cannot nip in the booty no matter what you eat? We all have our weaknesses whether its sweet, savory, salty, sour etc. that we just cannot live without, and a lot of the time these cravings we get are what can break our healthy diets. My philosophy is healthy eating with indulgence when needed and that depriving ourselves of treats is counter productive but what if you have these cravings daily and you need to fill them. This section will provide a few of my personal ways to hit cravings and hopefully provide some framework or inspiration on how to make your personal weaknesses and comfort foods a little healthier with some simple modifications.

Sweets—

            Dessert: If you’re like me, this is your number one weakness. My personal favorite sweet treat is ice cream or any type of frozen goodness. In small amounts and on rare occasions I do not see anything wrong with a bowl of normal ice cream but on a daily basis it is rather high in calories, fat, and sugar and does not make for the healthiest option. In order to combat this craving for frozen sweets I have become a fan of  “Banana Ice Cream” or “Banana Soft-Serve”. This entails freezing 3-4 ripe bananas until frozen then adding them into a blender or food processor with a bit of almond milk or milk product of choice and blending away until smooth. This creates a soft-serve like consistency and then the real fun begins. After blending until smooth you can add whatever toppings or add-ins of choice. My personal favorites include adding some pure-maple syrup, peanut butter, coco powder, or some fruits and berries. The choices are endless and you can customize it however you want. It may not be exactly like ice cream but it is a good substitution when you have that sweet tooth and need something to suffice it. You can find one recipe here (there are tons of recipes for this in different variations online, just Google it!): (http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/11/guiltless-banana-ice-cream.html)

            Breakfast: Many of us are on the go early and do not have time to eat a decent and sufficient breakfast which is not a good way to start the day. Breakfast gets your metabolism and your day going and is one of the most important meals of the day. Picking something that is quick and filling is also a problem many people have when they are rushed and on the go. That bowl of Frosted Flakes will only keep you full for so long and soon you’ll need breakfast round two before you know it. As much as I like eggs and bread when it comes to breakfast a nice sweet cinnamon roll or batch of sweet French toast sounds much more appetizing to my sweet addiction. Neither of these provides much nutritional value as neither is protein packed or whole-grains. A good way for me to quench my need for sweet is to spice up a warm bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal on its own is bland I admit, but with some simple additions a bowl of oatmeal can be sweet, nutritional and satisfying. I like to add things such as honey, bananas or maple syrup to increase the sweetness of the oats and cinnamon to enhance the bland flavor. I also am a fan of adding a spoonful of natural crunchy peanut/almond butter to add some good fats and protein, which will help you stay fuller for a longer period of time. Another good way to spruce up your oatmeal is to stir in some coco powder and sweetener of choice and create chocolaty oats or some pumpkin puree and a dash of ginger and nutmeg for some pumpkin pie oatmeal’s for those pumpkin lovers (like myself) out there. There are many ways to enhance the plain oats to create any combination of flavors! Having oatmeal for breakfast provides you with whole-grains and healthy carbohydrates and fiber to fuel your day and adding in some flavors can help you satisfy your cravings and make this breakfast more enjoyable. Here is a blog that I like to read who has a whole section dedicated to different yummy oatmeal flavors: http://www.katheats.com/kaths-tribute-to-oatmeal

Savory/Salty—

            When I think savory and salty my first craving is Mexican food. Mexican food, especially down here in the southern states, is amazing on so many different levels, however, it can pack on the fat and calories pretty quickly with all the frying and melted cheeses. I think we can all admit to overeating the chips, salsa, and queso before the meal even comes out, I know I do this all the time. Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but looking at nutrition labels on a bag of tortillas chips you can easily see that there are about 140 calories and 7 grams of fat in only 8 chips! Now how many of us can say we just ate 8 chips? I know for a fact that I can eat 8 chips in no time and go back for seconds or thirds. Recently, I have started baking my own tortilla chips from corn tortillas to help cut back calories and fat. To do so I cut about 5-6 corn tortillas into wedges of 8 then spray them with olive oil mister (you can make your own or buy a Pam Olive Oil) and season them with salt and chili powder (optional) then bake for about 10-12 minutes on 400 degrees. By baking your own tortilla chips you can essentially have 8 chips (1 corn tortilla) for 40 calories (give or take depending on tortillas used) and 1 gram of fat.  These chip are delicious, you can ask my roommates and others who have tried them, and make for a much healthier option.

Building onto these homemade chips, my roommate decided to make nachos one night and that sparked the idea to create a healthier version of this comfort food. Using our homemade, baked instead of fried chips, we added other ingredients such as 2% reduced fat cheese, jalapenos, fat-free refried beans, and some roasted salsa for a healthified version of nachos you could get at a restaurant. You could also use some avocados to make some guacamole and get some healthy fats or use some plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for dipping. Simple substitutions can turn your favorite comfort foods into a healthier option that fulfills your cravings without the entire splurge. Some other quick ideas would be to make a healthier quesadillas using whole-wheat tortillas or corn and pack them full of veggies like grilled onions and bell peppers, a little bit of reduced fat cheese, protein of choice (chicken, beans, lean meat) then some salsa and fresh cilantro then toppings of choice such as guacamole and Greek yogurt again instead of sour cream and you have a heart-healthy and satisfying meal!

Cocktails—

Drinks are a quick way to pack on some extra calories and fast when it comes to margaritas and other yummy and fruity cocktails. The average margarita can have between 500-750 calories, which is quite a scary number, especially since its quite easy to have two or more once you get going. Using Jose Cuervo margarita mix you can have 4 fl oz for 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar, this does not include the tequila or any flavoring add-ins. A simple way to cut the calories on your favorite cocktails is to make them from scratch without using syrups and pre-mixed cocktail mixers. When we are making margaritas our base includes: Tequila and triple sec of choice and amount, 1 large orange peeled and cut, 1 lemon peeled and cut, 1 lime peeled and cut, 6 tablespoons of Agave Nectar (or sugar), ice, and water. We add all the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth and get a wonderful creation, not too sweet and not too tangy coming in at only 262 calories and 1 gram of fat of whole fruit and natural ingredients verses the traditional mix with who knows what kinds of syrup and sugars are in it. We also like to add in half an avocado and some fresh cilantro to create a healthy and creamy avocado margarita, yum!!

These are just a few examples of ways I like to take traditional comfort foods and cravings and tweak them a little to use healthier ingredients that provide more nutritional value yet still hit that craving. Hopefully some of these ideas can guide you to take some of your own personal favorites and weaknesses and find a way to make them healthier without sacrificing taste. Simple things like using whole ingredients or baking instead of frying can make a big difference at the end of the day! But remember, indulge when you need and do not deprive yourself all of the time, we ALL deserve a treat every now and then!

List of simple substitutions to consider that add healthy bonuses:

  1. Use whole-grains instead of white or enriched when possible when it comes to rice, pastas, breads, etc.
  2. Try using a reduced fat instead of whole fat dairy products such as with milk (I suggest trying unsweetened almond milk), cheeses, yogurts, etc.
  3. Use Greek yogurt with baking or instead of sour cream. Greek yogurt is nutrient packed and high in protein to help curb your appetite.
  4. Do not avoid fats, instead focus on healthy fats such as EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), fat from nuts (make sure to use natural nut butters, those that are not natural pack in sugars and hydrogenated oils, yucky), avocados, etc… all the polyunsaturated fats are the best!
  5. Instead of sugar use things such as honey, maple syrup, bananas, agave nectar, or sweetener of choice (i.e. Splenda, Truvia, etc). I use Splenda so I am by no means anti-sweeteners, its just a personal preference so find what is right for you.
  6. Look for non-meat sources of protein when possible. You will be surprised to find what all out there is high in protein that is not meat! Look to try new legumes and beans! Soybeans (Edamame) pack in about 17 grams of protein for 1 cup and only 190 calories!
  7. Try to use fresh fruit and vegetables! I know they may be pricier but they have no additives or artificial flavoring, plus they taste so much better and fresh! If you cannot get fresh produce go for frozen. The canned type has more sodium, which is not good since most people consume too much sodium as is.

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