Summer has officially arrived — which can be both a blessing and a curse to your overall health and wellbeing. You’re surrounded not just by pools and sunshine, but by a lot of junk foods too.
On one hand, warmer temperatures entice you to get outside, be more active, and soak up the summer sun. On the other, the season often brings an endless parade of picnics, barbecues, and other gatherings centered around eating — and not always healthy eating.
For those who like to be conscious of nutrition, it may feel like you have to choose between attending Aunt Sheila’s annual pool party and maintaining your healthy eating habits.
Fortunately, you don’t have to cut out quality time with your friends and family just because you’re trying to cut calories. Instead of eliminating certain junk foods, consider replacing them with healthier alternatives.
Nutrient-Rich Substitutions For Popular Junk Foods
You should never feel guilty about what you eat; but if you are looking for ways to trim the fat in your foods, gain back some energy, or add variety to your cooking, look no further than the below list of nutrient-rich substitutions.
1. The Craving: Pasta
The Fix: Veggies
Pasta aficionados, rejoice! You don’t have to give up your favorite comfort, just because you decide to pass on the pasta. Consider investing in a spiralizer.
Spiralizers have become a kitchen must-have for those looking to add more veggies to their meals. There are a lot of options on the market, but any simple version for less than $10 will get the job done.
Spiralizers work best with cylinder-shaped vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and cucumbers. If you love noodles, substitute pasta for zucchini, and make “zoodles”!
In addition to transforming your dinners, spiralizers are easy to use and clean. They’ve become the kitchen gadget of the season — and with good reason.
If you’re looking to expand your cooking repertoire further, spiralizers can also be used to shape up soups, salads, and even pizza!
2. The Craving: Butter, Oils, and Heavy Creams
The Fix: Greek Yogurt
Perhaps you’ve noticed that many recipes call for heavy cream, butter, and oil when cooking. But as any health nut knows, these ingredients are packed with high levels of saturated fat, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
For a heart-healthier option, consider using Greek yogurt to reduce unnecessary fats and calories. Greek yogurt is very adaptable in recipes, acting as a healthier substitute for fatty junk foods such as butter, oils, sour cream, and mayonnaise.
Not only is it loaded with healthy probiotics to keep your digestion in check, but Greek yogurt can also be used as an alternate ingredient in dips, sauces, and even frosting.
3. The Craving: Sugars
The Fix: Honey, Agave Nectar, and Fruit
If your sweet tooth seems downright insatiable, have no fear. There are good alternatives to sugar — beyond saccharin and aspartame, which have been studied for decades, and found to have mixed results in balancing health and weight control.
If you’re trying to eliminate excess sugars, beware of high levels of sugar that are often unnecessarily packed into many common grocery store items — ranging from juices to pasta sauces, and even dried fruits. Always read labels thoroughly when shopping.
To satisfy your sweet tooth without ruining your healthy habits, try substituting sugar with natural sources of sweetener like agave nectar, honey, and maple syrup. You can also seek out sugars derived from fruits, such as lemons, bananas, and apples.
4. The Craving: Chips and Dips
The Fix: Kale and Hummus
For those with a saltier palate, be cautious of over-indulging your cravings, especially at those summer barbecues scattered with chip bowls aplenty. While they seem like an easy snack, there’s a reason chip companies’ success hinges on fun, light-hearted campaigns like “once you pop, you can’t stop.”
If you’re looking for something more nutrient-rich, why not make your own version? Kale chips not only contain large amounts of antioxidants, but they are also quite versatile.
Kale chips adapt well to different seasonings and spices, whether it’s a light parmesan dusting, or a spicy sprinkle of chili powder.
Substitute your favorite chip dip with hummus — a healthy and satisfying alternative made from soaked chickpeas — and you’ve got a flavor-packed and nutritious snack, just as good on the go as it is relaxing in front of the TV.
5. The Craving: Ice Cream and Other Cold Treats
The Fix: Fruit Pops
It just doesn’t feel like summer without a delicious ice cream treat, right? While we’re conditioned to believe that the only relief from the heat is a sweet and cold dessert, there are far healthier options than ice cream.
Fruit salad ice pops are a convenient way to indulge your sweet side, while also packing in multiple servings of fruit. The best part is that there’s no right or wrong way to make them!
For a richer option, substitute fruit juice with yogurt, and you’ve got a hassle-free alternative to a morning smoothie.
If you find yourself in need of a chocolate fix, mix in cocoa powder, or a few chocolate chips, for an added dose of sweetness. There’s no better way to start or end your day with this easy, tasty treat.
What are some of your go-to methods for trimming the fat from your favorite junk foods? Sound off in the comments below!
This is a guest post written by Jamé Heskett M.D., who has spent her 24 year career focused on women’s health and longevity issues. If you enjoy her article, share it on your social profiles. Stay fit!