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Guilt-Free Comfort Food Is Real With These Healthier Cooking Substitutions!

Guilt-Free Comfort Food Is Real With These Healthier Cooking Substitutions!

Do you ever wish you could get in shape without having to give up your favorite foods?

If diets allowed pizza, cookies, and brownies, losing weight and flaunting a toned body would be so easy, right?Unfortunately, when you try to get in shape, these foods are immediately forbidden.Ice cream, cake, fries, milkshakes and many comfort foods are off the menu and branded as evil.

It’s not easy when you are on a diet and your coworkers start sharing donuts around the office. It’s almost torture when you’re out for dinner with friends and you can only pick a handful of things on the menu, while everyone else can eat anything they like.

If you do indulge in a cookie or a slice of pizza, you think you “slip up” and feel guilty and disappointed in yourself.You don’t deserve to feel that way.

What if you could reach your fitness goals and still enjoy your favorite foods?

Have your cake and eat it too (Literally!)

The reason most diets fail is the majority of them are boring and hard to maintain.

Any diet that restricts the foods we love is destined to fail.

The solution? Find healthier ways to eat your favorite foods. It’s possible and easy.

Swap unhealthy ingredients

Did you know you can replace the unhealthy ingredients in your favorite foods with healthier ones and still enjoy the same tasty flavor?

When you identify the unhealthy parts in your food, you can swap them for healthier substitutions to create diet-friendly meals.

For example:

  • Pizza: Replace the refined flour in the base.
  • Brownie: Replace the sugar and oil.
  • Pancake: Replace the refined flour and sugar.
  • Fries: Replace the refined oil and excess salt.

If you get in the habit of swapping the unhealthy ingredients in your food for healthier ones, you’ll be able to make better choices, transform the way you eat and enjoy your favorite foods without guilt, all while hitting your weight-loss and fitness goals.

Healthy substitutions

Below you’ll find healthy cooking substitutions that will let you enjoy your favorite foods with half the calories.

These healthy swaps will increase the nutritional value of your food and reduce extra calories while maintaining the flavor and texture you love.

1. Chia Seed Gel Instead of Eggs and Oil

Chia seeds are nutritious Aztec seeds full of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They’re a fantastic egg or oil replacer in cakes, pancakes, cupcakes, cookies and most baked goods.

When you combine chia seeds with water, you get chia seed gel, a gelatinous mixture that works as a binder (like eggs) or to provide moisture and fat (like oil).

You can also combine chia seeds and plant milk to make a chia seed pudding that you can enjoy on its own.

In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 25% of the oil or egg in a cake could be replaced with chia seed gel without altering the flavor or texture. The cake with chia gel had more omega-3, less fat, and fewer calories. [1]

Pros:

  • Lower calories.
  • Reduces unhealthy fat.
  • Adds omega 3.
  • Adds fiber.
  • Doesn’t change the flavor.

Cons:

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  • Replacing more than 50% of oil or eggs with chia seed gel could alter the flavor of cakes.
  • It can’t be used for egg-based dishes like quiche.

How to make chia gel:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of chia seeds
  • 2 cups of water

Method: Mix the chia seeds with the water in a jar or glass container and store in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Alternative method: Make one chia egg by mixing 1 tbsp of chia seeds in 3 tbsp of water. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

Substitution: 1 egg = 1 tbsp of chia seeds + 3 tbps of water = 1/4 cup of chia gel.

Use chia to make this key lime chia seed pudding:

    2. Avocado Instead Of Oil or Butter

    Avocado is a source of healthy fats that can upgrade almost any recipe that calls for butter or oil. Because of its rich and creamy texture, it can be used to replace oil or butter in brownies, pancakes, puddings, and mousses.

    Both oil and butter might contain trans fats, but avocado contains monounsaturated fat, a beneficial type of fat with heart health benefits.

    Pros:

    • Adds heart-healthy monounsaturated fats [2].
    • Provides pantothenic acid.
    • Contains fiber.
    • Adds vitamin C, K and E.
    • The flavor masks well.
    • The texture is really close to butter.
    • Great for rich and decadent desserts.

    Cons:

    • It could change the color of the batter (green pancakes, waffles, cookies).
    • Not the best choice for airy and light desserts.

    Substitution: 1 cup of butter/oil = 1 cup of mashed avocado.

    Use avocado in this fudgy avocado brownie recipe:

      3. Banana And Oats Instead Of Sugar and Flour

      You won’t need refined sugar or flour as long as you have bananas and oats in your pantry.

      Bananas are a natural sweetener, so they’re perfect for smoothies, pancakes, brownies, cookies, bars, and most recipes that call for sugar. Unlike regular sugar, bananas contain fiber, which helps to keep your blood sugar stable.

      Oat flour is a fiber-rich gluten-free flour alternative. Unlike processed wheat, oats are a complex carbohydrate with a high fiber content and heart health benefits. To make oat flour, blend 2 cups of rolled oats until you get a fine powder.

      Pros:

      • Bananas provide nutrients like vitamin B6, manganese and potassium. [3]
      • Bananas can be used in almost any recipe.
      • Oats are heart-healthy.
      • The fiber in oats helps to stabilize blood sugar.

      Cons:

      • Oat flour is denser than other healthy flours.
      • Some recipes, like pizza crust, require lighter flours.

      Substitution:

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      1 cup of sugar = 1 cup of mashed bananas.

      1 cup of all-purpose flour =1 cup of oat flour.

      Try these banana oat pancakes:

        4. Baked Sweet Potato Fries Instead of Regular Fries

        Swap regular fries with baked sweet potato fries. They’re just as good! Sweet potatoes have less carbs, less calories, more fiber, and just one cup provides 214% DV of vitamin A.

        Baking the sweet potatoes instead of frying reduces the fat content. What’s not to love about this smart substitution?

        Tip: If salted, use sea salt instead of table salt.

        Pros:

        • Provides vitamin A, manganese, copper, and vitamin C.
        • Contains less carbs and calories.
        • Improves blood sugar regulation.
        • Baking reduces fat content.

        Cons:

        • Sweet potatoes are still high in carbs, so enjoy in moderation.

        Try this delish sweet potato fries recipe:

          5. Cauliflower Pizza Base Instead of Regular Pizza Crust

          Cauliflower can be used in many low-carb recipes, including pizza. It’s low in calories, carbs, and provides vitamins C, K, and folate.

          A cauliflower pizza crust helps to regulate your blood sugar levels because it has fewer carbs and more fiber than a regular flour crust.

          Pros:

          • Low-carb.
          • Provides vitamin C and other vitamins.
          • Provides more fiber.
          • Contains antioxidant properties.
          • Easily masked flavor.

          Cons:

          • The crust is thinner and crispier than regular pizza crust, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

          Try this cauliflower crust recipe:

            6. Zucchini Noodles Instead of Regular Pasta

            If you love pasta, zucchini is your new best friend. Spiralized zucchini makes an excellent low carb pasta you can enjoy without guilt.

            Zucchini is rich in manganese, riboflavin, vitamin C, and has anti-inflammatory properties [4].

            Add your favorite marinara sauce to it and you have a nourishing dinner.

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            Pros:

            • Low carb.
            • Low in calories.
            • Anti-inflamatory.
            • Rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, and manganese.
            • Mild flavor.

            Cons:

            • Be careful when cooking zucchini. If you cook it for too long, it will get soggy because of its high water content.

            How to make zucchini noodles:

            1. Clean your zucchini.

            2. Using a spiralizer, spiralize your zucchini to form noodles.

            3. Heat a pan over medium heat.

            4. Once hot, add a bit olive oil.

            5. Once your oil is hot, add the zucchini noodles and saute for 3-5 minutes.

            6. Make sure to stop cooking when the noodles are still firm. If you wait too long, they will get soggy.

            Try this zucchini pasta:

              7. Nicecream Instead of Ice Cream

              Nicecream – or banana ice cream – has only one ingredient: frozen bananas. When you freeze bananas and blend them in a food processor, you get a creamy and fluffy dairy-free ice cream (just like magic).

              While ice cream is high in sugar and fat, nicecream is naturally low in fat and contains vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C.

              Pros:

              • It only requires one ingredient.
              • Low fat.
              • Naturally sweetened.
              • Rich in vitamins and minerals.
              • Easy to make.

              Cons:

              • Enjoy in moderation, because bananas are one of the sweetest fruits.

              How to make basic nicecream:

              Ingredients:

              • 2 frozen bananas
              • Optional: coconut oil, vanilla essence, or soaked cashews.

              Method: Blend the bananas in the food processor until smooth. Serve immediately and enjoy.

              Try this 5-ingredient nicecream recipe:

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                8. Fruit Compote Instead of Syrup

                Next time you make pancakes, top them with homemade fruit compote instead of store-bought syrup.

                Commercial syrup is packed with refined sugar, corn syrup, flavorings, and colorants. Fruit compote is made with fresh fruits and limited amounts of healthier sweeteners.

                Tip: Start by making berry compotes. A strawberry compote is perfectly sweet and fresh. You’ll love it.

                Pros:

                • Made with fresh fruits (strawberries, blueberries, mango, peach, etc).
                • Healthier sweeteners.
                • Customizable.
                • Contains the vitamins and minerals of the fruits you choose.

                Cons:

                • None.

                Try this berry compote:

                  9. Oats Instead of Breadcrumbs

                  Again, oats save the day and cut calories in recipes calling for breadcrumbs.

                  Breadcrumbs are high in carbs, calories, and low in fiber, while oats provide more fiber and contain fewer calories.

                  Before using your oats, pulse them for a few seconds in the blender to make them less coarse and more similar to breadcrumbs.

                  Pros:

                  • High in fiber.
                  • Less calories.
                  • Less carbs.
                  • Heart-healthy.
                  • Helps to regulate blood sugar.

                  Cons:

                  • Oats might not be suitable for fried recipes because they’re more chewy than crispy.

                  Try this vegan meatball recipe that uses oats instead of breadcrumbs:

                    10. Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour cream

                    Greek yogurt is a perfect substitute for sour cream in muffins, cakes, dips, and many baked goods. It dramatically reduces the fat content of your foods while keeping all the flavor.

                    Just one cup of sour cream contains 45g of fat. Meanwhile, 1 container of greek yogurt contains only 0.7g of fat [5].

                    Greek yogurt also contains probiotics that help keep your gut microflora healthy.

                    Pros:

                    • Low fat.
                    • Low sugar.
                    • Contains probiotics.
                    • Contains protein.

                    Cons:

                    • Greek yogurt is tangier than sour cream, so you’ll need to adjust the flavors of dips and non-baked foods accordingly.

                    Try these blueberry muffins with greek yogurt:

                      Reference

                      [1] The National Center of Biotechnology Information : Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations.
                      [2] The World’s Healthiest Foods: Avocados
                      [3] The World’s Healthiest Foods: Bananas
                      [4] Dr. Axe: Zucchini Nutrition
                      [5] Two Foods: Greek Yogurt vs Sour Cream

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                      Brenda Godinez

                      Health writer, blogger & food photographer

                      Guilt-Free Comfort Food Is Real With These Healthier Cooking Substitutions!

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                      Last Updated on November 11, 2019

                      How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

                      How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

                      Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

                      To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

                      Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

                      1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

                      Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

                      Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

                      To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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                      2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

                      Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

                      If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

                      Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

                      3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

                      Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

                      Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

                      4. Feed Your Brain

                      Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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                      This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

                      Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

                      Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

                      5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

                      According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

                      Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

                      Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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                      6. Write it Down

                      If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

                      It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

                      You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

                      7. Listen to Music

                      Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

                      8. Visual Concepts

                      In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

                      Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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                      Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

                      9. Teach Someone Else

                      Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

                      Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

                      10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

                      Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

                      So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

                      Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

                      More About Boosting Memory

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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