Opinion: Healthy Ways, Happy Days: Healthy substitutions

Nanea Haynes, Guest Writer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through eating a healthy diet, it’s that the meals can get repetitive. When I first started the Paleo diet back in ninth grade, my plate usually consisted of a typical salad or vegetable dish paired with grilled chicken (or eggs in the morning). At first I enjoyed eating those meals; however, after a few months, I began longing to taste new flavors and awaken my palate.

So, naturally (like with many of my other problems), I turned to Google, where I knew could find the solution. By searching through Pinterest and many health-oriented blogs, I acquired culinary tips to experiment with in the kitchen. From that point on, I found my meals much more enjoyable, not only because I had created them myself, but also because I could finally indulge in my favorite meals without compromising my diet. These awesome healthy alternatives allowed me to reintroduce myself to meals I had once considered forbidden!

Who on a healthy diet wants to eat the same meals every day? I’m guessing very few. Luckily, you don’t have to put yourself through that kind of boredom. In this article you’ll find a list of alternatives I use that have helped me continue to enjoy eating healthily.

Almond/coconut flour over traditional flour
If I’m craving a baked good–I’m craving Paleo banana bread right now, BTW–I always substitute these two ingredients for flour. Many paleo/gluten-free blogs use it, and they will usually have guidelines for working with it (it bakes a little differently from regular flour). I recommend to sift it before using.

Zucchini over pasta noodles.
This is one of my favorite substitutions. It’s fairly easy to make, and takes less time than boiling regular noodles. With a spiralizer or julienne peeler, create long, noodle-like strands of zucchini. Then, sauté it until desired consistency and you’re ready to serve it with whatever sauce you prefer.

Quinoa over rice
Quinoa, a seed, is one of the healthiest foods out there because it is a complete, plant-based, protein. Swapping rice, a refined carb, with quinoa, a perfect protein, can transform your meal.

Blended frozen bananas over ice cream
It’s called “nicecream.” All you need is a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy consistency. Yum.

Plain Greek yogurt over sour cream
Trust me. Before you say it’s gross, try it. It tastes the same and offers so many health benefits!

Nuts over croutons in salads
Need a little crunch in your salad without the bready mess? Nuts will do just that. Sprinkle to sunflower seeds, or tamari-roasted almonds, over a salad.

Naturally flavored carbonated water over soda
Ever tried LaCroix? It’s naturally-flavored sparkling water. My family loves it, and I bet you would too. But if you don’t, still, eliminate the soda for good.

Mustard over mayo
There are many great, natural fats we eat, however, mayonnaise is not one of them. Eating too much mayonnaise can lead to heart diseases and eventually, heart attacks. Mustard–along with hummus, olive oil, and mashed avocado–can be a great solution without the heart health-risks.

Lean meat over fatty meat
Eating too many unhealthy, fatty meats like bacon and pork (don’t mistake salmon for unhealthy; it has healthy omega-3 fatty acids) can lead to high-cholesterol and other issues. Lean meats, like lean-beef and white meat, won’t hurt your cholesterol levels.

Baked or broiled over fried, battered, or breaded foods
Preparing your food the right way is extremely important. Fried, battered, and breaded foods add extra calories and fat to your dish that could have easily been eliminated by preparing them with simpler methods. Try baking your sweet potatoes fries–they’re delicious.

Fruit and yogurt over sugary cereals
Fruit and yogurt is a healthy sweet that also offers antioxidants and probiotics, and does not give you a sugar-crash, like with sugary cereals.

Water-based soups over cream-based soups
While cream-based soups are delicious (who doesn’t love a good clam chowder?), they have a ton of unhealthy fats and calories. Water or vegetable-stock bases are yummy, healthy alternative. Try creating a homemade tomato soup.

Steamed over creamed vegetables
Similarly to the soup bases, creamed vegetables offer the same unhealthy elements. Yes, vegetables can be unhealthy if you prepare them incorrectly. So instead, steam, bake, or saute your veggies. Those methods use water and oil, which offer nutritional benefits.

These are my most helpful and delicious substitutions, and they have transformed my level of satisfaction for my healthy diet. I hope you try some of these, and I hope you find them useful. With these ingredients and methods of cooking, I’ve made Paleo-approved quinoa sushi, zucchini bolognese, cocoa-banana “nicecream,” and many other innovative dishes. I’d be happy sharing my recipes with you. Likewise, I would love it if you’d share your creations with me. And if you find a healthy substitution I haven’t listed, please, do share them.