I have just come home from the NZ Fitness Expo. I have never been to one before and it was quite an eye opening experience. There were stages set up so you could watch different kinds of fitness demonstrations, there were pull up and arm wrestling competitions, you could even watch a Jiujitsu and Cross Fit competition. As well as all of the exercise side of things, there were also plenty of people exhibiting their different protein bars, shakes, cookies and other wonders and there was definitely no shortage of people buying these things. Whilst I believe some of these concoctions (I say concoctions as a lot of these protein products seem to have ingredient lists a mile long and are often unintelligible) some do have a place for some athletes who are time pressured, or struggle to consume adequate calories with food alone, I don’t believe these products are needed for the majority of people using them. Lets get back to basics, have some recovery eggs on toast and #justeatrealfood !!
This leads me nicely onto this weeks topic.
Last week we talked about thirty easy swaps you could make in your every day cooking to enhance the nutrition of your meal choices throughout the day. This week, I want to show you how you can turn some of your favourite comfort and snack foods into guilt free, nutritious meals and pick me ups!
You will notice the most common theme running through this list is the addition of vegetables. I use a lot of them, and no meal is complete without them.
Smart snack swaps
Make sure you are prepared. When getting ready for work pack some fruit and a small handful of mixed nuts so you aren’t caught short and forced to head to the vending machine if that is your thing.
Try buying some edamame beans (you can buy them frozen shelled or unshelled) and serve with a little salt or spice mix. They are a high protein choice and taste delicious!
Hummus or cottage cheese and vege sticks will brighten up any platter. Make sure you have nice and fresh, colourful vege sticks like carrot, red, yellow, green capsicum and even raw cauliflower and broccoli taste great dipped into some delicious hummus!
Salsa makes another great dip with no fat and lower in calories than traditional creamy dips. If you can’t get past a creamy style dip, use some natural or Greek yoghurt with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper as an alternative. This will dramatically reduce your saturated fat intake.
Have you ever tried cutting tortilla wraps into wedges, spraying with olive oil, sprinkling with some salt and pepper and baking them for a few minutes? Hello low fat nacho chips!! Make different flavours by sprinkling with different herb and spice mixtures. Cajun spices or garlic salt taste amazing! Try a wholegrain wrap if you dare…
One of the ‘in’ ‘superfoods’ at the moment is Kale. I am sure you have heard of it. Whilst I’m not necessarily that interested in the latest fads, I did have a go at making some kale ‘chips’ and they are delicious! Wash and thoroughly dry a bunch of kale (the drying is important) lay out on a baking tray, spray with some olive oil and season to taste. bake in a hot oven and be careful not to let them burn. Delicious!
Rinse and dry a tin of chickpeas thoroughly and mix with some oil and seasoning of choice. Put into the oven and roast. You will definitely have to portion these up, as they are a super tasty and crunchy snack. Try them out the next time you are entertaining!
For a quick snack that can be either savoury or sweet, try some air popped popcorn. If you are after a sweet snack try mixing some cinnamon through. Yum!
Whilst these are healthier alternatives to some every day snacks, it still doesn’t mean that they can or should be eaten as if they contain no calories at all. Keep in mind the word ‘snack’ and these should be enjoyed in moderation in a well balanced meal plan.
Comfort food favourites
Do you love a tasty and warming pie in the winter? Sometimes it’s hard to go past a delicious homemade chicken pie, but your regular pies normally come with super sized amounts of fat and pastry which doesn’t necessarily add anything to the flavour of the pie, and will most definitely add something to your waistline. Instead of making a traditional pie crust which encases the entire filling, pour your filling directly into a casserole dish and top with a few layers of filo pastry instead. You still achieve a delicious crunchy and flaky pastry like topping without adding unnecessary fat and calories.
No one can go past Mum’s homemade lasagne. Take a look at my healthier lasagne here:
Who doesn’t love a good burger? Making your own can be a super healthy meal compared to getting your burgers from a takeaway store. Try to make your patties from lean mince, you can even puree up some kidney beans or something similar to include in the mince mixture. This is a great way of hiding extra veges if you’re struggling to get the kids to branch out. It also adds fibre and will make your mince stretch further. Or go all out and just make vege burgers! Make sure you layer your patties up with all the trimmings (beetroot, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, etc) and be careful with how much cheese you use. Avoid mayonnaise and aioli if you can, and instead whip up some garlic infused plain yoghurt to go alongside. Include a side salad to boost the vege intake and use a wholemeal bun to add that extra fibre.
We don’t need hot chips with our burgers as well – if we eat both together it tends to mean we double up on our carbohydrate intake which usually pushes aside our lower calorie vegetable choices and therefore decreases the nutrition value of our meal whilst increasing the number of calories we consume. However, if you do want chips, try making your own wedges instead. Chop some large potatoes or kumara into wedges, leaving the skin on and spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some seasoning and bake in a hot oven for 25-30 minutes. Yum! And so much healthier.
Fish and chips may seem like a quick and easy option, but have you considered how many calories and how much fat may actually be contained in one portion? For an average portion from the fish and chip shop you could be looking at over 800 calories and 50g fat, most of which is saturated. This could be almost half of your recommended calorie intake for the entire day in one single meal! But don’t worry, you can make your own healthy version! Choose a firm white fish fillet and dip into a whisked egg, season some panko crumbs (available from Asian supermarkets or in the international aisle) and dip the eggy fish into the crumbs and cover well. Lay on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden and crispy. Serve with some homemade wedges (above) and vegetables or salad. Easy!
If you’re a quiche fan, you can also cut calories dramatically by making a crustless version. Use up all your leftover vegetables in one fell swoop with this simple and quick quiche idea. Whisk up some milk with a few eggs a little flour and seasoning and pour over chopped vegetables of choice in a lasagne dish, bake for about 20 minutes and you have a quiche style dish without the guilt.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love nachos. Make your own chips with my idea from above in the ‘snacks’ section, cook up a pot of chilli with plenty of beans, veges and spices in and serve with a side salad, some natural yoghurt instead or sour cream and some home made guacamole for a great source of healthy fat.
Whether you are on a lower carb diet or just like to experiment and get more veges into your day, try a cauliflower pizza crust. Blitz a head of cauli in the food processor until it resembles a crumb like consistency. Microwave for 7 or 8 minutes and then mix an egg through with some salt and pepper. Press the mixture onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with some salt reduced pizza sauce (even better make your own) a little cheese and plenty of veges! Serve with a side salad.
No time to make your own base? No worries, use a tortilla wrap as your base, 2 layers of mountain bread or a pita pocket. Go easy on the cheese, use some lean meat and go crazy with the veges! A super easy and satisfying dinner that the whole family will love!
You will be surprised at how many of your favourite dishes can be prepared quickly and easily at a fraction of the calorie price as a traditional bought takeaway meal. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun!