There are many foods that most diets call taboo, but it can be difficult to live without. There are also many foods that often have more oils or sugars than they should, and are really only a few modifications away from being part of a healthier diet. Even those foods that seem the most evil just need a little love to love you back.
Breakfast Foods You don’t Need to Live Without
Eggs have gotten a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol, but if your doctor hasn’t warned you about high cholesterol a serving of eggs won’t hurt. Which is a fortunate thing, too, because eggs are full of protein and a protein-heavy breakfasts can help one to feel full longer into the day. Scrambling, boiling, and poaching eggs are all healthier methods than frying, but the occasional fried egg breakfast won’t hurt, provided a plant or seed oil is used, rather than grease.
On that note, a lot of traditional breakfast meats, like bacon and sausage, are full of unhealthy saturated fat. Opting for Canadian bacon or turkey sausage instead can provide much of the flavor without all of the unhealthy fats.
Pancakes and waffles are other examples of breakfast favorites that are often the bane of dieters. Making batters at home instead of out of a box or a bottle is a little extra work, but can certainly help control what goes into the finished product. Using whole wheat flour can provide more substance with more fiber, vitamins and minerals than white flour, even if the texture and color aren’t as clean. Using yogurt or jam as a topping instead of syrup can also cut carbs while increasing vitamins and minerals.
A final note on breakfast foods: be careful which yogurt you pick. The calcium, protein, and probiotic content of yogurt makes it a solid choice as a side, snack, or smoothie ingredient, but flavored yogurts are often very high in sugars. It’s better to go with plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with fruit, or a few drops of honey.
A Sandwich, but Cut the Carbs Off
A big carb contributor in most people’s lunch plans is bread. Like pancakes and waffles, discussed above, going with a darker bread won’t help too much with carbs, but it will make sure that you get more bang for your buck in terms of other nutrients.
One way to eat sandwiches without bread is to eat a salad instead. A chef salad or caesar salad has lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and a protein, usually eggs, chicken or ham, but sans the bread. Consider using oil and vinegar based dressings like Italian rather than fattier dressings with more sugar, like ranch and thousand-island, for more healthy fats and fewer calories.
Soups and noodles are also common lunch options, where the danger isn’t so much carbs and calories as it is sodium. Like cholesterol, if you have a sodium problem you probably know about it. Even if it isn’t dangerous to you, a lot of processed foods don’t iodize their salt, and iodine is about the only good thing about sodium, which can cause water-retention. Worse than making you look bloated, too much sodium can cause heart problems if you have too much. If you aren’t going for reduced sodium options, check the ingredients to see if the salt used is iodized. Or as always, make your own to control salt content.
What’s for Dinner?
This site has already talked about meat quite a bit. It’s a pretty great source of protein with virtually no carbs. As long as you know how to buy lean meat, or trim down a piece that isn’t too lean, there’s nothing wrong with eating meat in healthy portions. Just be sure to eat a variety of meats, as different protein sources have different things to offer.
As for potatoes, they’re pretty hard to mess up, provided they aren’t fried in trans-fats. Frying them in healthier fats is a better option, but boiling, baking, or grilling are all better choices. The carb count for a serving of potatoes is usually what keeps dieters away from them. Leaving the skins on — or cooking them separately — won’t help reduce the carb count, but it can help increase the nutrient content to make those carbs more worth the while.
The age-old expression is “meat and potatoes” but if your dinners don’t usually include vegetables, that’s a problem. Vegetables often have a modest carb count, but are also full of a variety of vitamins and minerals that only come from plant sources. With a huge variety of vegetables and numerous preparation methods, everyone should be able to find some vegetable dishes that suit them.
Cutting Corners on Desert
Most classic deserts can’t be made healthy by changing a few ingredients or preparation methods, but many of them can be improved. After all, it’s important to retain the right to a few sweets, because of their cultural value, because they can help let the mind and body know when a meal is over, and because it can make a diet easier to stick to.
A few simple substitutions include baking donuts instead of frying them, and filling them with jelly rather than super-sugary fruit flavored fillings, or chocolate. Frozen yogurt can be a healthier alternative to ice cream as well, once again, provided that the yogurt in question does not have too much sugar itself. There are also recipes for homemade ice cream which can allow the maker to control the amount of sugar and other ingredients. Fruit flavored ice creams made at home can often do without a lot of added sugar, taking all of their sweetness from the fruit.
Foods that are high in sugars and fats are often diet killers, but they are also usually foods that people enjoy. Salvaging the flavor of these foods while improving their dietary value can be a simple and worthwhile task. Another goal, however, can be keeping one’s self from enjoying these foods in their original form in moderation and on occasion. Diets that are too strict are often too hard to follow, so any long-term plans should have a little wiggle room, including the occasional piece of cake at a birthday party or burger at a cookout.