This weekend we made some delicious pulled pork for a luncheon after my son’s baptism. The next day after everyone left, I was craving comfort food. In the past, that meant crappy, processed food that made me feel guilty and emotional for eating. Food shouldn’t do that to people. We should feel happy after we eat, not guilty. Still, I needed something, and for some reason I had a particular hankering for nachos. For the “old Ami” that would mean packaged chips cooked in who knows what oil that came from who knows where, more melty cheese that one person should consume and some sort of meat doused in sugary sauce. Do I have you hungry yet? After making the walk from the fridge to the pantry, back to the fridge, back to the pantry, etc, etc, etc… I realized I had all I needed to make healthy nachos. I piled some plantain chips on a plate, topped them with my leftover pulled pork and some pico de gallo and guacamole. Done! I had my comfort food and didn’t spend the night bemoaning my poor dietary decisions.
This got me thinking, there are a lot of substitutions I make daily to take bad food and make it healthy. The point is, you can still have the delicious food you’re used to and be healthy, you just have to make a few tweaks. Here are 10 of my favorite healthy food substitutions.
- Plantain Chips – As i mentioned above, I used plantain chips last week in place of nacho chips. I also use them in place of crackers (dipped in hummus or guacamole), or crunch them up and throw them on a salad. They’re a great, crunchy, salty snack. Make sure you read the ingredients. I buy mine at a local health food store in bulk.
- Lettuce wraps – Instead of using bread for sandwiches, buns for hamburgers or tortillas for tacos and wraps, I use lettuce. A big leaf of romaine works great in place of sandwich bread of a hamburger bun. Boston lettuce is my favorite to use for tacos, sloppy joes or chicken salad.
- Guacamole or pico de gallo – It’s amazing how something healthy like a salad can quickly become unhealthy depending on what you put on it. Instead of bottled salad dressing, I use pico de gallo or guacamole.
- Almond and Cashew milk – I don’t drink milk. I does bad things to my already overactive sinuses (You so wanted to know that). Some people avoid milk because it’s hard for them to digest, they don’t like the high calorie content, or the high sugar content due to the lactose. Whatever it may be, if you avoid milk, almond milk and cashew milk are my favorite substitutions. Make sure you get the ones without added sugar.
- Ami Cereal – Sometimes I just want a bowl of sugary cereal. It’s another one of those comfort foods. But reading the ingredients on the box, I just can’t bring myself to do it, not matter how comforting it may be. I make my own cereal by layering similar ingredients in a bowl. My favorite combination is: unsweetened coconut chips, finely chopped hazelnuts (only a very small handful), cinnamon, half a banana, a handful of blueberries, and a handful of raspberries all topped with unsweetened almond milk. Come up with your own combination using nuts, seeds, and fruit. It totally cures my cereal craving.
- Apple Chips – Like plantain chips, I love to use bare apple chips in place of croutons on salads. Make sure your apple chips include apples alone and not a ton of added sweeteners.
- La Croix water – This is one of my favorite treats. Sometimes I need something fizzy to drink but soda is a good representation of all that’s evil in the world. La Croix is basically sparkling water with natural flavoring. It has no calories, sodium, sugars, or anything bad.
- Dark Chocolate – Even though I eat healthy, I still like to end my day with something sweet. Instead of having a Kit Kat bar, I have a piece of unsweetened baker’s chocolate. I know not everyone is as crazy as I am, so another alternative to 100% cocoa, is Lindt 90% cocoa bar. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but the more you avoid sugar, the more it will start to taste “right” while processed candy begins to taste “wrong.”
- Coconut Milk – There are some sauces and soups that need creaminess. Rather than add in sour cream, heavy cream or cream cheese, I add a splash of coconut milk. This makes chili and tomato soup extra rich.
- Honey – Honey is still a sugar, but it’s so much healthier than your average granulated sugar. We use it on grapefruit, in oatmeal and even drizzle a very small amount on pancakes and waffles instead syrup. And while I usually drink my herbal tea plain, honey in lemon herbal tea is a great cure for a sore throat.