Let's face it: Going on a diet sucks. Sure, six-pack abs and bubble butts are waiting for you at the end of the road, but getting there isn't exactly a walk in the park. Sometimes, it's just hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and there's only one thing that can remedy this feeling: a hefty dose of your favorite comfort food.
Unfortunately, not all comfort foods are healthy. In fact, they tend to lean more towards the fatty, salty, and sugary side. You know this, but you're only human and your cravings can sometimes overwhelm you. And just like that, all the hours spent at the gym are flushed in the drain, and you wallow in self-pity as you regard yourself as a lost cause.
But going on a diet doesn't necessarily mean giving up on your favorite foods, no matter how calorie-laden they are. A compromise can be reached, as long as you're willing to get your hands a bit dirty in the kitchen and finally put an end to self-sabotage.
15 Replace Rice And Potato With Cauliflower
A lot of people swear that simply eliminating rice from their diet has made them lose weight. But if you're one of those people who can't live without rice, you can try eating cauliflower rice instead. If you're more of a potato person, try replacing half of your potato serving with cauliflower. It will supersize your portion without supersizing the calories.
Cauliflower contains 77 percent of your recommended daily Vitamin C intake. It's also a great source of other vitamins and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and B vitamins. You won't even notice the difference in taste because of the vegetable's mild flavor.
14 Replace Flour With Oat Bran
Love baking muffins? Ditch the flour and use oat bran instead. It actually contains 50 percent more fiber than oatmeal, making it effective as a digestive and cholesterol-lowering agent. A quarter-cup of oat bran also contains four grams of protein, which makes you feel full for a longer period of time, hence suppressing your appetite. Oat bran is also rich in calcium, iron, thiamin, magnesium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and zinc.
And if those benefits are not enough, rest assured that oat bran muffins taste better than muffins made with flour, since oat bran retains moisture better than flour. Say goodbye to dry baked goods!
13 Opt For Plain Dark Meat Instead Of Light Meat With Lots Of Condiments
Poultry lovers, rejoice! Chicken meat is chock-full of protein, so indulging in them every now and then isn't a bad idea.
But not all poultry parts are born equal. Dark meat like chicken thighs contains more fats and calories than white meat like chicken breasts. While the latter seems to be the more logical choice, people tend to cover them in condiments like ketchup and gravy because they are drier than their dark meat counterparts, hence loading up the calories. The best thing to do is to opt for the more flavorful chicken thighs minus the condiments, since they only have 10 more calories per ounce.
12 Remove The Oil From Dressing Bottles And Peanut Butter Jars
What do you do with the oil that settles on top of your salad dressing bottle or peanut butter jar? Most people would stir it or shake the container so that it combines with the rest of the contents. By doing so, they unknowingly increase the fat and calorie content of their food.
Next time this happens to you, simply pour off the oil. Every tablespoon that you discard is equivalent to around 119 calories and 14 grams of fat, so you're doing yourself a favor if you ditch the oil. But don't regard this as a reason to overeat. Control your serving sizes.
11 Use Bananas
Did you know that you can use bananas as a replacement for oil, butter, and even ice cream? Just imagine how many calories you'll be dodging as a cup of butter contains more than 1,600 calories compared to a cup of banana's mere 200 calories. Their saturated fat content doesn't even come close, as butter has 116 grams of saturated fat in contrast to banana's half a gram.
Mash ripe or overripe bananas and use them in place of butter or oil for your baked goods. As for ice cream, slice your bananas and pop it into the freezer for a few hours. Blend it with a bit of non-fat milk and a dash of vanilla.
10 Use Butternut Squash Or Broccoli Stems For Your Fries
French fries are definitely frontrunners when it comes to everyone's favorite comfort foods. They are also one of the most sinful, as they are high in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
But instead of frying potatoes, why not try baking butternut squash? It's naturally low in calories and carbohydrates, plus baking is a healthier way to prepare food rather than frying. You simply have to cut the squash into fry shapes, sprinkle them with salt, and bake them for 40 minutes to have your low-calorie and low-fat fries. Another alternative is broccoli stems, which are great sources of dietary fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and a whole plethora of vitamins and minerals.
9 Cut The Fat In Mac And Cheese
Being America's ultimate comfort food, there are lots of readymade mac and cheese that you can buy at the supermarket. Forget those and make your own low-fat version at home using milk, extra mature cheddar, and butternut squash.
Instead of using butter and flour to cook the pasta, substitute it with butternut squash and milk, which can similarly create a thick, starchy sauce. As for cheese, it is easy to put too much of it on your mac and cheese without noticing. To avoid this, use strong cheddar cheese instead of regular ones to give it your desired tangy flavor and bubbly goodness.
8 Substitute Spaghetti Squash For Noodles
If you love pasta, you know that the traditional noodles are too starchy to be healthy. Enter spaghetti squash, which is the perfect light alternative to any pasta dish that you can think of. One cup of nutrient-rich spaghetti squash strands is equivalent only to 42 calories, compared to the whopping 221 calories from the usual spaghetti noodles. You just need to learn how you can make noodles out of squash, and you'll be on your way to making your favorite pasta meals.
With spaghetti squash, you can make light and gluten-free versions of a variety of pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, creamy kale spaghetti squash, and spaghetti squash 'n shrimp arrabbiata. The possibilities are endless.
7 Replace Sour Cream With Greek Yogurt
Sour cream may look innocent enough, but research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal revealed that sour cream is one of the most notorious diet wreckers. Just a half cup of this is equivalent already to 220 calories.
If this is a staple in your diet, perhaps you can swap it with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, which only has half the caloric content of sour cream. It also has less sugar and fewer carbohydrates compared to regular yogurt. Greek yogurt contains 24 grams of protein—equivalent to four eggs. You can also use it as a replacement for mayonnaise.
6 Swap Heavy Cream With Evaporated Skim Milk
Aside from the fact that heavy cream contains as much as 414 calories per cup, it's also low in protein and fiber—the two things that give you a feeling of satiety. Not only will you ingest more fat and calories, but you'll also be in danger of overindulging.
Fortunately, you can cut the calories in half by switching to evaporated skim milk instead. But unlike regular skim milk, evaporated skim milk can still do the job of thickening the consistency of sauces and soups—pretty much what heavy cream does, minus the fat. Evaporated skim milk also contains 20 grams of protein per cup, which helps curb appetite, enhance weight loss, and lower triglyceride levels.
5 Bake Or Grill Rather Than Fry
It's true that lots of dishes are best served fried. But that doesn't mean that grilling or baking them would make them bland. In fact, a lot of fried foods can also be baked. The great thing about the latter is that it takes out the oil and butter needed for frying over direct heat, thus lessening the calories. Examples of fried foods that you can bake include potato dishes, chicken cutlets, fish, and cheese. You can also grill chicken and fish.
If you really must fry something, opt for healthy cooking oils like soybean and olive oil to boost your intake of vitamin E and healthy fats.
4 Use Ground Turkey Rather Than Ground Beef
Who doesn't love burgers? Unfortunately, ground beef is too fatty to include in your diet, so why not opt for patties made out of extra lean ground beef or ground turkey?
Ground beef that's 95 percent lean only has 116 calories and four grams of fat. It definitely is a lot healthier than regular ground beef that contains 250 calories and 18.6 grams of fat. Furthermore, lean meat is a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron.
As for ground turkey, it's also rich in vitamin B3, which helps promote sharp vision and fight cataracts. You can use ground turkey not just on your burger patties, but also as a replacement for any red meat dishes such as meatloaf and meatballs.
3 Make Brownies Using Sweet Potatoes And Black Beans
Now this is totally unconventional, but these two ingredients not only make delicious brownies, but healthy ones as well. Black beans support the digestive tract and help lower colon cancer risk. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are great for those who are on a gluten-free and vegan diet. It is also rich in vitamin A because of its high beta-carotene content, plus it helps strengthen the body's immune system.
Both black beans and sweet potatoes have a sticky texture that's perfect for making decadent and fudgy brownies. Pair them with rich cocoa and you wouldn't even taste the difference.
2 Use Healthy Ingredients In Your Pancakes
Pancakes are the ultimate breakfast foods. But instead of buying a ready-made pancake mix straight off the grocery rack, why not try making your own healthy version?
You simply need to mash a banana, whisk in an egg white, and add a pinch of cinnamon. Fry the whole mixture until it turns golden brown—just like how a pancake is supposed to look like. You can add a drizzle of honey to make it tastier.
Just a quick fact: The combination of honey and cinnamon is great for weight loss. There is huge anecdotal evidence supporting its fat burning and appetite suppressing properties.
1 Cut Down On Salt With Citrus Juice
Many comfort foods contain huge amounts of salt. According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day—certainly more than double the recommended amount of 1,500 milligrams. This increases your risk of hypertension and heart disease.
To reduce your sodium intake, you can use lemon or lime juice in place of salt in your chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes. This will keep your dishes flavorful without the additional sodium content. Furthermore, citrus juices are full of vitamins and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that help reduce the risk of developing cancer and various heart ailments.