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How I’m reinventing flavors I can’t quit.

Let’s be real, people. Food should taste good. No brainer, of course, but even when I’m on a calorie budget, I am not about sitting down to a plate of cauliflower. Or giving up everything I love. It may take some cooking gymnastics, but I’ve found ways to keep the flavors I love in my diet. That’s one of the interesting things I’ve learned along the way–those foods I really like crop up unexpectedly. I found out what I missed pretty quickly, but then I worked to adapt. Here are some of the exchanges I’ve made to keep those delicious tastes in my diet.

If you love peanut butter, try peanut powder. Turns out, a few weeks in, that I really, really missed peanut butter. It’s too many calories to justify most days, though (or maybe it was that when I want peanut butter, I want a LOT of peanut butter). To keep the taste but cut the calories, I tried peanut powder, which is simply ground peanuts. I throw it in smoothies all the time, and it gives me the taste when I crave it. There’s nothing like a bagel with peanut butter, but for now, peanut powder does the trick.

If you love flavored creamer, try almond milk. While I’m not a huge fan of syrupy coffee flavoring, I do appreciate a hint of vanilla. By splashing almond milk into my coffee, I gave it some extra flavor and cut the bitterness in the same way milk or half & half does. It’s lower in calories (60 for a whole cup!) and dairy-free. While this isn’t a priority for me now, if I ever needed to go dairy-free, my coffee would be safe. My favorite kind (i.e. the only one I’ve tried so far) is Silk Light Vanilla almond milk.

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If you love pancakes, try cottage cheese pancakes. Sometimes, breakfast just needs to feel indulgent. But regular pancakes aren’t an option when calories are concerned. After discovering that plain old cottage cheese wasn’t happening anymore (my palette no longer says yes to it, I found), I wanted to use it up somehow, since it’s packed with protein. I found this recipe for cottage cheese pancakes and gave it a go, cutting it down by about a third so that I could cook all the batter and eat the whole stack. This made a stack of pancakes (4 medium sized) for about 200 calories, giving me room for syrup (low fat and sugar, of course). Add cinnamon to the batter and you’ve got yourself healthy pancakes. I promise the cottage cheese is just sneaky protein.

If you love burgers, try turkey burgers. Anyone who knows me knows that burgers are held close to my heart. With a Sandwich Slim for a bun, lean ground turkey, and plenty of spices, burgers are possible! I packed the turkey burgers with minced onion, salt, pepper, and even some red pepper flakes for plenty of deliciousness. When they’re piled with great veggie toppings (mine had spinach, onion, mustard, and pickles), it tastes just like a regular burger. (Note: turkey is the secret to low-calorie meat eating, I have found.)

If you love Frosties, try a smoothie. Okay, okay, this is a tough one. While not exactly the same, if I want an ice cream-y dessert, bring in the blender. I’ve thrown in ice, almond milk, half a banana, peanut powder and cocoa powder for a quick, low calorie treat, and it satisfies my sweet tooth. And the variations are endless–add Greek yogurt, too, for extra richness and sweetness. Extra calories left at the end of the day? A tablespoon of mini chocolate chips would add extra decadence.

If you love Mexican food, try Chipotle (seriously). Mexican food is basically a religion in my family, but for now, it falls under the category of “cheat day.” That’s one reason why Chipotle is my favorite place to eat out nowadays–because I can eat what I’d eat even if I weren’t watching my calories. The app I use has verified Chipotle serving sizes and calorie counts, so my burrito bowl’s count (only 515 calories!) should be fairly accurate. I get a bowl with brown rice, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, Chipotle’s hot salsa, and a pile of lettuce. So, so good and filling.

And, when a substitution just won’t cut it, make your list of things you won’t compromise on (but make room in the calorie budget!). Here’s mine: ranch dressing. Sorry, nope. Turkey Hill Graham Slam ice cream. I will take many walks to earn a half cup (eaten over a very careful half hour) of this glorious creation. Bread. Half sandwiches or Sandwich Slims are my go-to. Road food. I’m not about Subway for a road trip. If I have to eat a tiny amount of Wendy’s, that’s what’s happening. And Diet Coke. Zero calories, probably terrible for me, but too bad. I love it unconditionally.

What substitutions have you found that keep your favorite flavors in your diet? And what can’t you quit? Tell me in the comments!

 

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