Anyone who knows me well is probably pretty familiar with my love of substituting not-so-healthy foods for nutritious alternatives. However, not everyone gets as excited as I do at the thought of avocado chocolate mousse… so I thought I’d share some basic food swaps that can spare some kilojoules and add some nutrients.
If you feel like….
Lollies: Go for some dried fruit instead – dried apricots, cranberries, sultanas and dates (they’re not called nature’s candy for nothing). Keep this to a handful though, because although they’re packed with fibre, and will contribute to one of your two serves of fruit a day, they do have a high sugar content. For a snack that really ticks the nutritional boxes, make your own fruit and nut mix. It’s easy, portable, and is sure to increase your protein and fibre intake.
Ice Cream: For a satisfying soft-serve like fix; freeze a banana, and blend it in the food processor until an ice cream like texture is achieved. Believe it or not, this really does compare with ice cream! Top with nuts or add in other fruit or flavours to customise your ‘banana soft serve’.
Alternatively, freeze some grapes or berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries), and snack on these when an ice cream craving strikes.
Chocolate: To satisfy a lingering chocolate craving, stir a spoonful of cocoa powder and some cinnamon into some warm milk. One serve of calcium plus the ‘benefits’ of chocolate (flavanols) without the guilt.
Hot Chips: Making your own chips at home is as easy as cutting up a potato and baking in a 220 degree oven for 20 minutes. Spray with a little olive oil spray, and sprinkle with different flavourings such as paprika or rosemary. Choose sweet potato for lower GI, which will make for a more sustained energy release.
Chips: Make the switch to popcorn – though don’t be tempted by the buttery, salty kind you’d find at a movie theatre or in microwavable pouches, as these negate the many perks of popcorn. Instead, make your own by combining a small amount of olive oil with ½ cup of unpopped popcorn and placing in a paper bag with some salt. Fold the bag over to ensure nothing will escape and microwave for 2-3 minutes. That’s how easy it is!
If that seems like too much work, Cobs Popcorn is an Australian company that produce really great popcorn, with many different flavour varieties and little nutritional compromise. I would choose their organic ‘slightly salted, slightly sweet’ popcorn over movie popcorn any day.
Creamy meals: One of the easiest ways to reduce kilojoules in your creamy evening meal is with a few dairy-based substitutions. Instead of coconut cream or milk in your curry, go for an evaporated milk with coconut flavour, and rather than calorie-dense cream in your carbonara, choose a fat-reduced evaporated milk. Finally, substitute sour cream in your Mexican feast with natural yoghurt – you won’t even notice the difference. These substitutions not only cut the saturated fat without compromising flavour, they also adds some ever-important calcium.
Two-minute noodles: Admittedly, I struggled to come up with an alternative for this one. Popular with a multitude of age groups thanks to their convenience and satisfyingly familiar taste (aka MSG), this classic staple food is horrifyingly high in sodium – “like opening your mouth in the ocean”, to quote a friend. In keeping with the convenience factor, cooking conventional pasta takes only a little more time, and contains substantially more fibre than two-minute noodles. As for flavour? Stir in a tablespoon of basil pesto and you’re done.
Soft Drink: We all know it’s bad; even Coca-Cola has admitted their products are involved with the obesity epidemic. So save around 400 kilojoules a glass by choosing water instead. If plain water is too boring, opt for soda water, which is also free of kilojoules. Squeeze in some lemon, lime or orange for some flavour.
Pizza: The pizza you might buy from the supermarket or takeaway is loaded with salt and empty kilojoules. Making pizza at home is so easy, and allows you to add much healthier and delicious toppings. Starting right from the bottom: rather than using regular pizza bases, use pita bread to significantly reduce the calorie content of your pizza. The relatively new Barley Wraps are an absolute powerhouse of fibre, boasting 35% of your daily intake per wrap. This is mainly due to the addition of BARLEYmax, the CSIRO-developed whole grain that’s full of fibre and resistant starch (fibre that is fermented in the large intestine, encouraging the activity of healthy bacteria).
Choose toppings such as roasted vegetables (pumpkin, eggplant, capsicum, mushrooms), olives, pine nuts, walnuts, smoked salmon, shaved ham, shredded chicken, rocket, pesto or tomato paste, low-fat cheese, and lots of herbs.
Apple Crumble: I’ve included this because it’s my favourite dessert of all time. About a year ago I discovered Lola Berry’s ‘World’s Best Apple Crumble,’ and seriously, it lives up to its name. I love this recipe because it’s a great example of creating a healthy version of something not traditionally considered a healthy food. By substituting a few ingredients, it’s possible to make your own amazing food that satisfies your cravings and fits in with a healthy lifestyle.