Eating well doesn’t mean sticking to bland meals or foregoing your favorites. The trick is upgrading what you put on your plate. It can be as easy as switching out a few ingredients – and we’re not talking about trading tofu for steak.
Start small. We know it’s better to eat less sugar. The empty calories do nothing for us nutritionally and put us at risk for lots of bad things like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
But we can use sweet substitutes instead. Ripe bananas or applesauce work for baking. Just use the same amount of either one as you would sugar. You’ll get fiber, which slows some of sugar’s bad effects (fruit has naturally occurring sugar).
If you must use sugar (to maintain neutral flavor, for instance) in baking recipes, try coconut sugar. It offers trace minerals.
For main meals, try baking instead of frying – everything from chicken to bean burgers. Your food will still come out crisp, but baking cuts way down on the grease factor (and keeps your home smelling better).
“Limit foods high in saturated fat, such as large portions of butter,” advises Michelle Huntley, RD, LD, CDE, a registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Unum and DPD Nutrition Consultants.
Keep in mind that if you’re baking for one or only a few people, you can use a toaster oven instead of a traditional oven, saving time and energy.
For dessert, try overhauling chocolate mousse with an avocado-based recipe. Stay with me on this. It sounds weird but is surprisingly tasty. That’s because avocado easily takes on other flavors – cacao (or cocoa), in this case.
Using avocado eliminates cream, another food Huntley suggests avoiding when we can. Plus, you get all the good stuff avocados offer: vitamins A, C and E, plus potassium, protein, fiber and good fat. Give it a go.
3 ripe avocados*
¼ cup coconut oil*
½ cup coconut sugar, raw honey or true maple syrup
½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup cacao (or cocoa) powder
½ tsp vanilla
In a food processor, blend avocados until smooth. Continue blending and add coconut oil. When texture is creamy, continue blending and add sugar/honey/maple syrup. Stop blending, and then add all other ingredients. Mix with a spoon for a few strokes, and then blend in processor until totally smooth (it should be dark brown and sweet, so add more cacao and sweetener, if needed). All done! Extra delicious if served with shredded coconut, dried cranberries or goji berries.
* Florida avocados create a lighter mousse. Hass avocados have more fat and create a heavier mousse, so you can use less coconut oil with them: only one to two tablespoons.
Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. She was a senior editor for Yoga Journal and still does research for the magazine on wellness, fitness and nutrition. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.