healthy meal substitutions

Delicious and Nutritious: No Decisions Necessary

It’s a far too common misconception that you have to choose between food that tastes good and food that is good for you. If you’re of this mindset, I want to show you that it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to choose between indulgence and your health. First of all, remember that most things in life are all about moderation. More importantly, though, is the notion that you can make healthier substitutions without sacrificing pleasure. If you’re thinking of changing your diet, I hope you’ll approach it in an “eat-this-not-that” sort of way, rather than simply starving yourself in misery. Here are three great examples of alternative recipes under 500 calories that will taste as good as they make you feel.

healthy meal alternativesThe Classic: Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich and Fries

The Healthier Alternative: Barbecue Chicken Sandwich with Balsamic Spinach Salad

I promise you will not miss the fattier version of this all-American favorite, and to make it even better, this might be one of the simplest meals you’ll ever make. I found this one for you on the Clean 9 website, and here are the per-serving numbers you need to know:

466 calories | Total Fat 16 grams (2 g Sat. Fat) | Carbs 52 grams (8 g fiber) | Protein 34 grams

  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 – 3 ounce chicken breast (or use rotisserie chicken, skin removed)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons slivered walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 whole-grain hamburger bun, toasted (optional)

This is such a common-sense combination. Shred your chicken, smother it in barbecue sauce, and place the mixture on your bun. Combine your spinach, carrots, walnuts, and vinaigrette in a bowl, and toss. Voila! Could it possibly get any easier?

Try to go for organic when you can, and if you have the time, you can probably save some calories by choosing to make your own vinaigrette.


healthy eating 2The Classic: Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

The Healthier Alternative: Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Have you ever seen this strange gourd? It’s nature’s answer to pasta. I’ll admit that the sweetness and texture of the squash is nothing like the noodles you are probably used to. However, it’s delicious in its own right, and if you’re having a craving for some creamy alfredo, this recipe will leave you happy and satisfied.

Serving size: Half the recipe (approximately 3 cups of spaghetti squash with half the recipe of sauce)

428 Calories | Total Fat: 17 grams (10g sat fat) | Carbs: 43 grams (8g fiber) | Protein 22 grams

  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tablespoon butter (Note: While the recipe calls strictly for butter, I am positive that you can get away with a bit of margarine, instead. Feel free to indulge, but know that you don’t have to!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (Go for skim.)
  • 1 Tablespoon fat free cream cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes and fresh parsley, for optional garnish

Baking a spaghetti squash is so easy. Grab your biggest, sharpest knife and cut the gourd in half. Scoop out the seeds, place the halves in your pan face down, and add about an inch of water to the pan. Bake until the meat of the squash is tender. On average, it takes about an hour (more or less depending on the size of your squash).

For the sauce, melt your butter and sauté your garlic. Sprinkle your flour in, and whisk the milk in until there are no lumps left. You want the kind of texture that coats the back of a spoon. Add your cream cheese, and let it melt. Once it has melted completely, remove your sauce from the heat and stir in the grated parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Use a fork to scrape the inside of your squash. You’ll see why; it makes strands that resemble spaghetti. Continue to do this until all of the fibers have been pulled away, and then stir in your sauce (half of the sauce for each half of your squash). Sprinkle with the additional parmesan that you reserved for the topping, and broil until it’s nice and golden and bubbly. Top it with red pepper flakes if you’d like. So delicious! I borrowed this gem from the Comfort of Cooking, and trust me, you’ll be making this more than once.


healthy meal alternativesThe Classic: Fudge Brownies

The Healthier Alternative: Almond Butter Brownies (Flourless and Vegan)

I think we can all agree that there needed to be a dessert recipe included here, right? Well, here it is. According to this recipe’s creator, Chocolate-Covered Katie, if you like soft and extra-fudgy brownies, this dessert is not for you. Really, though, this recipe requires a bit of a leap of faith. You’ll be skeptical about that flourless bit, and probably even more suspicious when I tell you that these brownies are ready in just 15 minutes. It’s all true. Just try them. Here’s something else that is hard to believe:

Serving size: 1/9th of the pan

166 Calories | Total Fat: 11 grams (1.2g sat fat) | Carbs: 15 grams (1.8g fiber) | Protein 4.7 grams

  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 Cup of softened almond butter
  • 1/2 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup, honey, or agave
  • Loosely-Packed 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 325 F, and line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper or grease it well. Run your oats through a food processor or blender until very fine, then mix all of your ingredients together until smooth. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth it out with a spatula. Bake it for 15 minutes on the center rack. When you take them out, they will look under-baked. This is normal. Give it time! Let them sit at least a 1/2 hour if you want them extra gooey, or let them sit overnight for a slightly firmer treat.

This is the advantage of preparing your own meals at home whenever you can. By learning how to make sensible substitutions, you can make gradual and lasting changes in your kitchen and in your life. Your physical presence has such profound purpose, and I know your days can be long. Give your body the fuel it needs to rise to that challenge.