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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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                      How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

                      How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

                      Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

                      But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

                      Sight – Visual Stimulation

                      The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

                      1. Maximize your exposure to light.

                      Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

                      Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

                      2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

                      Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

                      Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

                      Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

                      3. Take note of your environment.

                      Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

                      By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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                      Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

                      What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

                      4. Engage in conversation.

                      Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

                      Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

                      Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

                      Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

                      5. Listen to upbeat music.

                      Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

                      Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

                      Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

                      If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

                      6. Work your nose.

                      Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

                      If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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                      Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

                      Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

                      If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

                      7. Have a good breakfast.

                      Start off with the most important meal of the day.

                      Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

                      Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

                      Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

                      20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

                      8. Drink lots of water.

                      Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

                      So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

                      How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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                      Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

                      3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

                      9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

                      Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

                      Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

                      Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

                      25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

                      Touch – Tactile Stimulation

                      Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

                      10. Splash cold water on your face.

                      Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

                      This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

                      5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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                      11. Use acupressure.

                      Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

                      Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

                      12. Get moving.

                      Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

                      And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

                      You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

                      Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

                      Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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