Healthy cooking is one of those topics that is near and dear to my heart (and stomach). While at its most basic level food is just fuel for our bodies, in reality it is so much more than that. Food is the focal point of social gatherings and, for better or worse, we console, reward, cajole and show love with food. These days, food has become a celebrity with several prime time shows and networks devoted to creative, over-the-top, drama-filled cooking.
As a result, finding the balance between making every meal a sensory delight and staying healthy can seem like a daunting task. I’m here to show you that you can make healthy, satisfying meals in minutes in ways you never imagined! Below are 8 substitutions that will change your life and figure for good. And, if you’d like some creative recipes, fill out the form to receive a document with my favorite recipes – many of which feature these swaps. There’s even one for pizza!
1. Ground Cauliflower for Rice or Couscous.
“Serve over rice” is found in so many recipes. Unfortunately, rice – especially white rice – is a high glycemic, high carb item that can derail weight loss efforts. For this substitution, just get a head of cauliflower, cut into florets and put it in your food processor and process until ‘rice-like’. Then, sauté with herbs, spices and flavorings of your choice.
2. Spiralized Zucchini or Spaghetti Squash for Pasta/Noodles.
Yes, you can still have Sunday night spaghetti and meatballs while following a clean, unprocessed food plan. Just substitute spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini for the pasta. It’s not an exact replica, but it is close enough. When you balance the rewards to your body, it’s an easy, worthwhile substitution.
3. Mashed Cauliflower for Mashed Potatoes.
This switch is so common that it is now showing up on restaurant menus! Frozen cauliflower works best. Just steam it in your microwave, spray with a little olive oil, add a dash of almond milk and puree in a blender or food processor. Finish with salt and pepper to taste. Change it up by adding roasted garlic, low fat cheese or silken tofu.
4. Baked Eggplant Strips for Lasagna Noodles.
I actually like this version better! It’s lighter and easier to handle than those pesky, breakable noodles. Just slice 4-5 zucchini lengthwise into ¾ inch strips, season with Italian seasoning and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Then use eggplant strips in place of noodles when layering your lasagna. Remember to use lean ground meat and low fat cheese and lots of veggies!
5. Almond or Coconut Flour and Cottage for White Flour in Pancakes
Everything is right in the world when you can lose weight and enjoy Sunday morning pancakes with your family, right? Just mix a half a cup of almond or coconut flour (available in most grocery stores) with ¼ cup of low fat cottage cheese, two eggs and a dash each of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook like a regular pancake and top with warmed frozen blueberries and your tastebuds will never notice the difference (your waistline will!).
6. Large Cabbage or Lettuce Leaf for Bread/Wraps Etc
This is not only for sandwiches, I use a Napa cabbage leaf in place of the tortilla shell on taco Tuesdays. Figure-friendly, guilt-free and delicious. Just place your favorite filling in the center of the leaf, roll and enjoy. The crispiness and slight sweetness actually adds to the experience, in my opinion.
7. Low Fat Cheese For Chips/Crackers
My go-to recommendation in place of chips is usually thinly sliced, well-seasoned, roasted vegetables. I still love that option because more vegetables is always better. But, when I came across this idea, I was intrigued. Take low fat string cheese and cut into quarter-inch slices. Arrange on cookies sheet lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 4-5 minutes until the cheese melts and turns golden brown. Allow cheese to cool and peel from tray. Enjoy!
8. Yellow Squash for White Potatoes In Hash Browns
Yes, you can enjoy this fried, feel-food again! Grate squash, mix in an egg as binder, season and form into patties. You can add a teaspoon of almond flour to thicken, if needed. Form into patties and fry in a bit of olive oil. They may not be as firm and crisp as the unhealthy version, but the potato flavor is definitely there!