Eat this, not that - 8 Healthy alternatives to your favourite unhealthy foods
Unless you're following a super-strict diet, chances are you give in to your cravings every so often. But when it's cold outside, we're all a bit guilty of indulging more than we should (admit it, we won't judge you!) The good news is that whether it's salty or sweet food you're craving, there are always delicious healthy alternatives out there that will curb your craving whilst being a bit healthier for you. So you can still indulge on your cheat day - but the rest of the time, try these food swaps for size...
#1. Craving bacon?
Mmm bacon. Who can resist a bacon sandwich at the weekend? If you really, absolutely must have a bacon sandwich right now then opt for lean turkey bacon - it's lower in fat. However to add a bacon-like flavour to veggie dishes or just amp up the smoky flavour of meat for that bacon-hit, why not try adding some smoked paprika? This amazing spice adds rich, deep smokiness to casseroles and meat. Try cooking some lean pork escalopes in a dusting of seasoned smoked paprika flour and serving with plenty of vegetables and brown rice for a healthy dinner. Who needs bacon?
#2. Craving a McDonald's milkshake?
There's nothing quite like a rich, creamy, fat and sugar-packed McDonald's shake - and the odd one now and again won't harm you. If you're at risk of developing a dependency though, turn to smoothies as a fruity, healthy alternative. Blend your favourite frozen fruits with water or juice to create a delicious frosty smoothie, or make your own milkshake at home with some almond milk. Hold the sugar and the calories - this is a great, refreshing alternative that's one of your five a day!
#3. Craving chips?
Chips, french fries - whatever you want to call them, why are they SO DAMN TASTY?! Most of us wouldn't turn down a portion of chips, but if you want to curb your craving without overdosing on fat and calories, then why not make some sweet potato fries? Sweet potatoes are low on the glycaemic index, which means your body converts them into energy more slowly, leaving you feeling satiated for longer. Oh, and they taste amazing - seriously! Dust your fries with some cayenne or chilli powder before baking in the oven and you'll have a delicious, healthy bowl of fries to enjoy.
#4. Craving chocolate?
Before we go any further, we should point out that chocolate doesn't always deserve its bad rep. Not all chocolate is bad for you - in fact, dark chocolate and raw cacao is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants (to help keep your body looking and feeling younger!) But if your once a week chocolate treat is turning into a daily habit, help is at hand. Swap your chocolate for a home-made granola bar or energy bites. Using dates for sweetness and cocoa powder or raw cacao for a rich, chocolatey hit, you'll find you eat less of home-made treats. In a pinch, pick up a healthy cereal bar such as a Nakd bar (we love the cocoa-orange variety) at your local supermarket for a guilt-free treat.
#5. Craving fried chicken?
Enjoying the occasional KFC isn't a crime, but with most fried chicken loaded with MSG - not to mention the fact it's deep fried - it's hardly a healthy choice on a regular basis. It's SO easy to marinade and grill your own chicken at home and trust us when we say it tastes a whole lot better than the processed stuff served in fast food restaurants. The key is finding a marinade you like. For us, it has to be honey mustard, teriyaki or a simple lemon and herb marinade - great for the summer months! Lean breast is the healthiest option but skinless, boneless chicken thighs are also delicious marinated overnight and cooked on a grill pan. We recommend serving your chicken with rice or salad - not chips - or why not make some sweet potato wedges?
#6. Craving crisps?
Crisps and chocolate seem to be our two greatest downfalls when it comes to eating healthily and for most of us, it's one or the other. If you find yourself craving the salty, crunchy fix that only a bag of Walkers can give you, it's time to take action! There are a few alternatives to your crisp habit. Popcorn is an obvious choice - provided it's air-popped, it's lighter in calories, and with just a sprinkle of salt, it contains no additives. Or why not make some vegetable crisps at home? Kale chips are a popular choice, and sprinkled with some salt or parmesan cheese they're a moreish alternative to traditional potato crisps. You can even buy bags of vegetable crisps or chickpea crisps at your local health food store - but check the ingredients to make sure they're pure and natural.
#7. Craving creamy salad dressing?
Chicken caesar salad seems to be one of the most popular salads around - and with good reason; the creamy dressing is delicious! However all that fat just isn't good for you regularly, so next time you're out and about enjoying a salad, opt for dressing on the side or choose a lighter salad - look for those with a basic vinaigrette dressing. When making your own salad dressings at home, stay away from creamy, fat-laden varieties and use fresh ingredients such as olive oil (a source of good fat), balsamic or cider vinegar, lime and lemon juice, herbs, garlic and wholegrain mustard to create your own vinaigrette.
#8. Craving a cheeky dessert?
Whether your weakness is cheesecake, chocolate ice cream or hot apple crumble and custard, we all love a little dessert now and again. But if you regularly find your thoughts turning to something sweet after dinner, it's time to look for healthier alternatives to fat and sugar-laden puddings. Our post on healthier desserts should help you get started - fruit and yoghurt is always a good alternative to ice cream or cake, or why not try some chocolate chia seed pudding or avocado chocolate mousse? You could even whip up a batch of healthy sweet potato brownies.
There are always healthier alternatives out there, you just have to look for them. You don't have to give up the foods you love 100% of the time, but by tackling your cravings, you can enjoy a healthier diet 99% of the time and then treat yourself on your cheat day - guilt-free!