Nutrition Tip of the Week: Finding a healthy substitute that tastes great

We all find ourselves in a moral dilemma when we shift our focus to eating healthier.

“I really want to eat that [insert food], but I’m on this new diet and it doesn’t allow [insert food].” The boss buys lunch for everyone in the office but since your diet won’t allow it you end up staring at Terry while she eats it one bite at a time.

pitt stare

Terry doesn’t need that, let Terry enjoy that lunch. What you really need, my friend, is a solution to this problem.

That answer is substituting.

Healthy substitutions

Finding new recipes for familiar items that are on the unhealthy side is the best way to ensure that you don’t black out and wake up in an alley covered in chocolate frosting. Take the concept of the meal and then breakdown what exactly makes the meal “unhealthy”. Is it the oil? Is it too much fat added in? Is it too many extra ingredients? Once you have that answer it’s really a process of addition and subtraction.

Example #1- Parsnip Fries

For clients that love french fries but want to get in better shape, you would break down why fried potatoes an issue. Aren’t baked potatoes approved in most diets? So why is this one in particular an issue? It’s the oil and salt added. Not to mention, the amount of carbs in the form of a snack can be a real problem for those lacking self-control and on a strict lower carb diet. So, I give you your substitute. Parsnip fries.

This recipe was given to me by a friend a while back. After doing some digging, I found the perfect way to make a much healthier variation of fries. It starts with a bag of parsnips, found at almost every grocery store in the produce section.

Parsnip fries

Taking these parsnips, you peel them like a potato and cut them up into normal french fry shape and length. At that point, you need to preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with the cut parsnips. I like to throw a few tablespoons of garlic, a few cracks of ground pepper, a few sprinkles of pink sea salt, a dash of paprika, and a bit of rosemary. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, check for flipping if necessary, and then bake again for 10-15 more minutes. Voila! Healthier, tasty fries with a similar texture and much less to worry about.

Magic trick: For best results, spray avocado lightly onto the fries before the second round of 10-15 minutes to make them crispy!

Example #2-Spaghetti squash

For those of you that missed the video of me making some spaghetti squash pasta, check it out on @AthleticAgain (IG). Spaghetti squash is such a cool and tasty replacement for pasta noodles that I rarely have actual pasta unless I eat at a restaurant. Think if you could eat some good pasta like meals at only 7g of carbs versus 43g per cup in real pasta. I would much rather have the squash if I can make it taste somewhere in the neighborhood of the real thing.

Start by taking a spaghetti squash and poking holes in the outer skin. Then, microwave the squash for around 5 minutes or until it becomes softer. This is a great tip because the squash can be tough to cut if you skip the microwave. Once warm, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds just like you do while pumpkin carving. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and stick the two halves on a baking sheet. Season the insides as you wish, I like to use paprika, ground pepper, sea salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes face-side up and then pull out the strands when finished. You can then take this and make things like chicken parmesan, asian stir fry meals, or whatever creation you have in mind. This substitute just allowed you to keep one of your favorites dinners without the added stress of meeting a diet requirement.

Subbing for success

This all comes down to you thinking of what foods you love to eat and creating awareness on how you can improve the nutritional quality of those meals. If we can identify the things that make them unhealthy, we can search for better ways to make them. Remember that your diet should never take away foods, it should only give you a guideline to work within. Almost any type of meal can fit in a diet, it just comes with moderation and some thought on what ingredients go into making it. Try writing down a few of your favorite meals and then do a little research on how you can make a healthier version. Who knows, maybe you might fall in love with a new version of a favorite dish.

Until next time, keep grinding.



Published by strengthcoach7

Graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Sports Sciences. Strength and conditioning coach, Sports Scientist, and passion to help people find their athleticism.

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