When I go on and on about how I don’t diet and just eat whatever the hell I feel like with no real diet in mind, you guys must all think I throw all caution to the wind, eat loads and loads of fat-ridden foods, and that I’m generally not healthy. There are a lot of choices I make on a daily basis that have helped keep me in check though, and I want to show you how easy it is to substitute one food for its healthier counterpart without noticing any difference in taste. I have been making healthy substitutions in my cooking and baking for such a long time that it’s really just habit now. Let me show you how easy it is!
I’m sure, by now, especially if you hang around Pinterest or food blogs at all, you’ve heard about all the benefits of coconut oil. If not, let me just give you a quick run-down. Coconut oil contains absolutely no trans fats. It aids in heart health, weight loss, digestion, and immunity! It takes off some work-load to the liver, reduces kidney stones, helps to control blood sugar, improves the body’s ability to absorb minerals making our bones stronger, and it is believed that coconut oil plays a part in reducing the susceptibility of HIV and cancer patients.
With all this being said, why wouldn’t you incorporate coconut oil into your diet? Maybe it’s just one of those things that seems too “health nut” to you? You don’t want to be all hippie about it all. Well, let me just tell you, it’s not all that hard. Sure, a container of coconut oil is maybe $7-10, but it lasts for months. I use it in place of butter, vegetable oil, or extra virgin olive oil when I’m sauteing up my veggies, browning my tofu, etc etc. I’ve even heard you can use coconut oil in place of the butter you use in your rice krispie treats! I haven’t tried it out. Here’s a recipe, if you’re curious. And just an FYI, when you buy coconut oil, it is a solid when it’s cooler and oil-like when it’s warmer. If your recipe calls for vegetable oil, just melt down your solid coconut oil in a small saucepan to use.
Whole Wheat Pasta & Rice
This one’s an easy substitution. Instead of buying regular refined-flour pasta and white rice, just buy the whole wheat and brown counterparts instead. Whole wheat pasta used to not be all that great. It kinda got a bad rap for it’s taste and overall texture. But I think there have been some improvements in this category. Sure, the cook-time is a little bit longer, but it’s worth the extra few minutes to lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and obesity. If you’re anything like me, you love pasta, and it’s probably not something you want to deprive yourself of, so make the switch to whole wheat. But also remember the key – moderation! Make sure you’re realistic and aware of your portion sizes, but eat enough of what you like to not feel deprived.
The options are pretty much endless here. There’s cow’s milk, almond milk (my personal favorite), rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc etc. Maybe you’re a die-hard 2% milk kinda gal. I completely understand being tied to the flavor of your milk and having a hard time switching to something different. Have you tried the 1%? Is it too watery-tasting? What if you started by filling your glass with half 1% and half 2%. Continue to increase the lower-fat variety over time until you’re drinking a full glass of it. You can try the same thing with soy or almond milk. I haven’t drank cow’s milk in years, and it’s just a personal choice I have made. I’m not vegan, but after some research, I just realized that cow’s milk is not for me. I’m not going to preach my animal-rights theories and beliefs here, but if you’re curious, there is a lot of info out there (www.goveg.com). Regardless of all the animal stuff, there’s just the plain simple fact that milk contains fat, and the lower the fat content you’re putting in your body the better!
Now I know there is a lot of hype and controversy about artificial sweeteners not being good for you. Some may freak out about the aspartame not being safe and causing cancer (what doesn’t cause cancer these days?). The FDA has actually stated that aspartame is one of the most widely tested and studied foods and it is clearly safe for human consumption.
With artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Truvia, etc), they are much sweeter than sugar actually is, so you don’t need quite as much as you would normally use. Any time I can, I use a sugar-free option. SF coffee creamer, Splenda in my coffee, SF jello, Splenda instead of sugar in my baked goods, diet coke on the rare occasion. This is an easy way to cut the un-needed sugar from your daily intake. When my recipes call for sugar, much of the time, I’m actually using Splenda.
Fat Free / Low Fat
This is another controversial topic. People argue that if they’re cutting out fat, they must be adding in other additives to make it taste good. I don’t agree with that. I simply think they are cutting the fat. When you are buying yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, etc always choose the low fat or fat free version. I’ve never noticed a difference in taste. The only thing I have noticed is that LF/FF cheese and cream cheese doesn’t melt as well, but they eventually do, and it’s not enough of a problem for me to stop using it.
Well, my friends. These are the few basic substitutions I make on a day to day basis in order to stay as healthy as I can while not feeling deprived. It’s not like I’m on a diet. This has just become a way of life for me. It’s just second nature that when I go to buy pasta, it’s going to be whole wheat. Or I try to grab a frozen yogurt rather than ice cream. This is an easy way to stay on track and keeping yourself in check while not feeling deprived. The goal is to make things taste good to satisfy our cravings and desires while not packing on the pounds in the process. Through a few simple substitutions, exercise, and moderation it can be done!
What health-conscious substitutions do you make in your cooking and eating?