Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Swaps

I will tell you right now that I love food too much to eat plain brown rice and carrot sticks in the name of health.  If it doesn't taste good I'm not going to eat it.  The honest truth is you don't need to sacrifice flavor to still eat healthy.  You can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.  It just takes a little creativity and experimentation to plan an menu that is figure-friendly without feeling deprived.  Here are a few of my favorite swaps.


If you want: Pancakes with Syrup
Try: Whole Wheat Ricotta Pancakes topped with Berries
I will attach the recipe at the bottom of this post.  These pancakes are so delicious that I prefer them to regular pancakes.  They are very easy to make, very filling, and they are low in fat and high in fiber and protein.  If you can get fresh berries you can sprinkle them on top or heat them in a saucepan or microwave with a little honey or sugar (it doesn't take much) or you can use frozen berries.  I keep a bunch in the freezer all the time.  I like to warm some raspberries, strawberries, and dark cherries in the microwave then pulse quickly in the blender (not too much).  The dark cherries are so sweet that you don't need sugar.

If you want: Ham & Cheese Omelet
Try: Spinach, Roasted Pepper, and  Asiago Egg-White Omelet
It is really easy to make an omelet in the morning.  You can put any veggies that happen to be in the fridge into it.  I have used zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, bell pepper, onion, tomato, you name it.  But, my favorite in spinach and roasted red pepper with just a sprinkle of asiago or parmesan cheese.  I also keep a little carton of egg whites in the fridge (cage-free organic), but you can separate them yourself.  The key to making good egg-whites is to season and not over cook.  I mix them with a little skim milk or water (just a splash) and pour into a skillet then immediately season with a little sea salt and fresh pepper.  I hated egg-white for a long time but that is because it was the overcooked to the consistency of rubber.  They don't have to taste like that.

If you want: Sub Sandwich
Try: Deli Wrap on Lavash Bread
Lavash bread is similar to a thin flatbread or flour tortilla.  I use Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran, & Whole Wheat Lavash Bread.  I know what you're thinking- that sounds like too many healthy things for it to taste good, but it is actually very tasty.  It is low calorie and has a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega-3.  I like to spread either hummus or neufchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese) on it then layer shaved deli turkey, a couple slices of ultra thin sliced provolone (Sargento makes one that is only 40 calories per slice), and fresh baby spinach.  Just roll it all up and eat.  One sheet of lavash bread is 2 serving sizes and is quite large so you could use half. But a whole sheet is only 100 calories, that is less than one slice of whole grain bread. 

If you want: Cobb Salad
Try: Chicken Balsamic Salad with Strawberries
A lot of people think all salads are healthy but a loaded cobb salad can have more calories than a cheeseburger.  A better dressing choice is a low-fat vinaigrette.  I make my balsamic vinaigrette from scratch because it is easy, it tastes better and I know what is in it.  All you need to do is beat some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little dijon mustard (this holds it together) with a little honey to sweeten it.  If you like creamy dressing, you can replace the olive oil with a low fat mayonnaise.  I like the olive oil mayo.  Grilled chicken is a great addition, as is fresh strawberries (or other berries), avocado, cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, and if you like crunch consider adding unsalted pumpkin seeds instead of croutons.


If you want: Enchiladas with Refried Beans
Try: Fajitas with Black Bean Puree
Fajitas are a good choice because you can throw more veggies in.  The other good thing is the tortillas are smaller so you can control the carbs easier.  Be careful ordering this at a restaurant though.  It is probably full of butter. Instead of refried beans, try making a black bean puree.  I drain a can of black beans and puree in a food processor with some lime juice, cumin, and smoked paprika.  It is healthier and tastes way better.

If you want: Bacon Cheeseburger
Try:  Green Chile Burger on Multigrain Ciabatta
I personally think ground turkey is overrated.  It doesn't taste very good to me and unless it is breast meat only (often it is not) it has much more fat than 95% lean ground beef (3oz of 95% lean ground beef has 4.2g fat and 114 calories, 3oz of ground turkey has 11g fat and 200 calories).  The moral of the story is use extra lean ground beef.  It still tastes good and your burger won't shrink to half its size like it does with that 80% lean garbage.  To add a little heat, mix 1 small can of green chiles into 1 lb of beef.  If the mixture is too wet, add a little panko.  I also add about 1/4c of reduced fat shredded cheese (cheddar or mexican blend).  Using shredded cheese is a great trick to enjoying cheese without blowing your calorie budget because a little goes a long way.  Instead of a traditional bun try a multigrain ciabatta roll.  They make low calorie hamburger buns but I think they taste like sawdust.  The ciabatta is around the same calories but has more fiber and less fat (on average) and it is very tasty.  Try fresh baby spinach in place of lettuce too.  I love it.

I hope these tips will help you inject a little more "healthy" into your day. And now I will leave you with my pancake recipe:

Whole Wheat Ricotta Pancake Recipe
(modified from the Weight Watchers Tastier than Takeout Cookbook)

2/3c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1c fat free ricotta
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4c skim milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Whisk together wet ingredient, add dry ingredients, and stir until blended.  I think we all know how to cook pancakes so I won't go any further with directions.  It makes 8 pancakes using 1/4c of batter for each.  FYI: It takes just a little longer than a traditional pancake to cook through.

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