I love a good meal, especially after a long day at work, or even, a busy morning at the office. In all honesty, I probably think about my next meal far too often, which is why I always keep some healthy snacks around my apartment (and loads of peanut butter). I love comfort foods, but I love making simple food swaps to make my go-to meal a healthier, more satisfying choice.
Whether I’m cooking dinner, making lunch, or throwing together a breakfast, I don’t skim on the nutrients (no matter how tired I am). With empty calories, I end up feeling really full, then feeling very hungry within a few hours. (Sorry, pancakes — I’m talking to you.) When it comes to eating well, I try and pack lunch as often as I can, so I don’t feel starving by the time I realize I should actually eat lunch.
Crazy as it may seem, I’ve never actually eaten a cheesesteak in my life (and yes, I live in Philly). Once I tried a nibble of my brother’s and couldn’t even finish it. I know, I’m crazy. When I make my own homemade meals, I do not sacrifice taste. I don’t make a big bowl of plain oatmeal pretending I’m in heaven, but I just don’t sit around eating sugar-laden oatmeal either.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland, boring, or just plain, tasteless.
When it comes to choosing the right foods, I find the perfect balance.
Avocado instead of Mayonnaise
I am a passionate avocado advocate. Whether I’m eating it as guacamole (I’ll pay extra, I get it), as mousse (yes, it exists), or as a sandwich spread, you can find this staple in my fridge far too often. Packed with potassium and fiber, these fruits (yes they are fruits) are good-to-eat even on their own.
Avocado can also be used as an alternative to calorie-laden spreads, such as mayonnaise. As opposed to avocado, mayonnaise is actually packed with sodium, calories, and cholesterol. Mayonnaise all-too-often gives your sandwich a bad (w)rap, no matter how many hearty vegetables you packed in. Yes, avocado does has fat, but it’s heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Did you know an entire avocado has only 14 mg of sodium, and only two tablespoons of mayonnaise has nearly 200 mg?
Instead of piling a heavy heaping of mayo on your sandwich, try cutting up and mashing 1/4th of an avocado and spread it on your sandwich. Not only is it delicious, but it’s good for you, and it makes your sandwich a whole lot healthier (and tastier!)
Mayonnaise: barely any nutrients. (For no nutrients, I’d rather eat an ounce of chocolate!) Avocado: lots of nutrients. I think the winner of the battle is evident.
Spinach Instead of Iceberg Lettuce
You may think choosing any green for your salad is acceptable and healthy, but don’t be fooled. In fact, iceberg lettuce doesn’t claim much on the nutritional field. On the other hand, another popular salad green, spinach, is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. At only seven calories a cup, spinach provides 56% of your daily intake of Vitamin A.
Iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, only provides you with 10% of your daily intake. Talk about a wilted leaf. For a simple healthy swap, add spinach to your omelets, pasta dishes, and even your pizza. (Just try and make it thin-crust)
Turkey Burgers Instead of Hamburgers
Got beef with turkey? Some people assume I’m a vegetarian because I only eat poultry and avoid red meat. I was raised on chicken and turkey, so red meat was never really in my house. I’ve never had a cheesesteak before and I live in Philly. (I know, I’m crazy.) I still eat burgers — just made from turkey.
Three ounces of 85% lean ground beef actually has 75 mg of cholesterol. Ouch.
Luckily, you can substitute your beef with healthier, lower calorie and lower fat meats, like turkey or chicken.
I found a great turkey burger recipe that I try and make at least once a week. I personally love adding a little bit of guacamole (avocado, again), greens, and I’m super satisfied with my meal. Even if you love red meat, you should give turkey burgers a try!
Cheese and Apple Slices Instead of Cheese and Crackers
Choose crunchy apples and low-fat cheese over overly-processed crackers with cheese. I love cheese, so I’ll never condone it (in smaller quantities). Instead, I find a healthier food to complement it, in lieu of overly salted crackers. (To be honest: I rarely add salt to any of my foods — unless it’s Brussels sprouts.)
Apples and cheese is actually one of my favorite snacks. As you can tell from my previous post, I love apples, and I usually eat them before I can even cook dishes with them. I’ve never really loved the combination of apples and peanut butter, but I really find the salty-sweet combination of apples and cheese to be really mouth-watering.
When I pick a cheese, I try and stick with a lower-calorie and lower-in-fat variety, like part-skim mozzarella, which only has about 70 calories per ounce, or feta cheese, which only has about 75 calories an ounce. You can have your cheese and eat it too.
Plain Greek Yogurt instead of Flavored Greek Yogurt
Plain doesn’t mean bland! No, you don’t have to give up taste and flavor by getting rid of your favorite fruit-flavored yogurt. Instead, make your plain yogurt actually “fruit-flavored” and adding fresh fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and adding a nice crunch, like almonds or other nuts. It tastes so much better than artificially sweetened “fruit” in your yogurt, but it’s a great way to add some fruit to your diet.