This is part of a series about changing one family’s diet toward healthier choices. I am not a dietician, just a mom who wants to find out what works best for our family. I hope this can inspire you to find what works for you. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3…
Dessert Had to Change
I really like dessert. Almost any kind. I actually served dessert after dinner 4-5 days a week for years. This had to change.
I began using different substitutes in baking that tasted good and boosted the nutrition of this part of our lives that I felt was really important to our happiness…okay, my happiness. I’ve subbed whole wheat flour, wheat bran, oats, wheat germ, coconut flour, graham flour, rice flour, almond meal, and even black beans. Pretty much anything you could think of as a “health-ifid” replacement for white flour, I’ve tried it.
I’ve also really enjoyed replacing the oil and fat in recipes. I’ve experimented with applesauce, yogurt, bananas, ground flaxseed, and prunes as replacements. Each of these substitutes removes the oily fat and replaces it with moisture and possibly some flavor. The prunes are a good substitute in brownies and spice cakes, but not so much in cornbread, as you can imagine. (Go, ahead. Imagine prune cornbread. Ha!)
For sweet baked goods, I love to use fresh lemon or orange juice instead of milk or water. I’ll toss in a handful of fresh or dried fruit for color and flavor. Don’t forget nuts for a protein kick and texture. Then I remove some of the sugar and the let the natural flavors treat the senses.
My favorite dessert is ice cream. The best flavors, nutrition, and quality ingredients came when we experimented with frozen yogurt. Using Greek style yogurt is a simple way to add loads of protein and makes for a creamier consistency than regular yogurt which can form ice crystals when it freezes. My all-time favorites are vanilla frozen yogurt and avocado lime frozen yogurt.
Cook Less and Eat More
When I do cook I try and cook a double batch and freeze one for a later date. Our family has a full schedule like the rest of the world and we often ate at fast food restaurants because it was convenient, everyone was hungry, and everything I had at home to cook took much longer than anyone (including me) wanted to wait. By cooking double portions of dinners, reheating an emergency last minute dinners was a snap. It also provided us with extra food if surprise guests joined us for a meal or if I was sick and unable to prepare meals.
Even just freezing pre-cooked components cuts down drastically on prep time when you need it most. I like to freeze precooked ground beef, ham, chicken breast, or beans to be tossed onto a quick salad or mixed into a pasta dish.
It’s also a great time saver to freeze loafs of homemade wheat bread or brown rice. Both of these items are a nutritious addition to a meal, but they take forever to cook. It only takes a few minutes more of oven time to cook two loaves of bread instead of one. What a savings in energy with double batch efficiency!
Veggie-packed chili and spaghetti sauces freeze beautifully and could save some of your aging produce from going to waste. Just throw it all in a big pot. Eat some now and freeze the rest for when you need a quick, but healthy meal.
Remove One and Add One to the List
Making all these changes and adding healthier products to your shopping list can seem daunting when you look at your already tight budget. One way to overcome this might be to remove one less-than-healthy product and replace it with the first positive product you want to try and integrate. They don’t have to be a substitute for each other but it might be easier to see the switch being effective if you do an equal swap of popcorn kernels for the potato chips you usually purchase. They’re both snack foods. But the popcorn kernels (that you could prepare on your stove with coconut oil) will include many more servings and definitely cost less than the chips.
Another step might be to buy coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Just try it and don’t tell anyone. Any negative response can usually be avoided by adventurous use of spices to enhance the flavors, but not overwhelm the palate.
Removing one undesirable item with a healthier alternative can be a successful way of incrementally changing your shopping list for the better.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I’d love to hear how you’ve transformed your family’s meals with small steps toward health.
Photo courtesy of Clean Eating.