Mac and cheese, and burgers, and pizza—oh my! Committing to a healthy diet does not mean giving up your favorite comfort foods. Make these simple adjustments to enjoy the foods you love without any of the guilt.
Mac and cheese you can feel good about:
Choose noodles that are high in fiber, at least 3 grams per serving. Whole grain pasta is an excellent option. A high fiber diet keeps your gut bacteria healthy, keeps you feeling satisfied for longer, and may even reduce your risk of chronic illness.
Make sure to measure out your pasta. It can be difficult to judge how much cooked macaroni a box of dry pasta will yield. Skip the guesswork and avoid overeating by measuring your portions.
Use less noodles and more veggies. Make your mac and cheese hearty and healthy by loading it up with vegetables that complement the flavors of the dish. Cauliflower is a great choice because it doesn’t have much flavor of its own, so it won’t distract from the cheesy goodness. Cubed butternut squash is another great addition because of its velvety texture and lightly sweet taste.
Make your own cheese sauce. None of that powdered stuff will do. In a saucepan, combine a reduced-fat cheese of your choice with a little milk over medium-low heat. Fat-free skim milk or unsweetened almond milk are both low-calorie options. You can also add a little low fat sour cream for extra creaminess. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and minced garlic.
Easy edits for a healthier burger:
Pass on the fast food and prepare your burger at home. Cooking your own burger gives you full control over the portion size and the fat, sodium, and calorie content. The American Heart Association recommends a serving size of only three cooked ounces for beef.
Try binding your burger with whole grains such as bulgur or quinoa to add fiber, vitamins and minerals, and keep sodium down.
Grilling is the way to go. Cooking a burger on the grill allows the fat to drain away from the meat. This also means you won’t need to use additional cooking fat like butter or oil.
Be choosy about your cheese. Opt for cheese that is lower in calories and fat. Part-skim mozzarella only has 79 calories and 5 grams of fat per ounce. Swiss cheese has 95 calories and 7 grams of fat per ounce. These cheeses are better options than cheddar or pepper jack, which both have roughly 110 calories and 9 grams of fat.
Skip fatty toppings like mayo, barbecue sauce, and other dressings. Mustard is a good low-calorie option that even contains a dash of iron and calcium. Try adding onion or jalapeño to add flavor without adding sodium.
Eat more pizza with less calories:
Making your own sauce at home is quick, easy, inexpensive and allows you to control the ingredients, which means no unnecessary added sugar. Combine a can of tomato sauce (opt for one with no salt added) with your favorite Italian seasonings such as garlic, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes if you like a little kick.
Be strategic with your cheese. Try using part-skim mozzarella instead of whole-fat, and cut the amount of mozzarella cheese you use in half. But don’t stop there, making a low calorie pizza does not mean you must sacrifice flavor. For extra cheesy goodness, dust your pizza with fresh grated parmesan. One tablespoon of parmesan contains 1.4 grams of protein and only 21 calories.
Load it up with veggies. Meaty pizza toppings are typically high in calories and saturated fats. For a healthier option, cut back on the meat and pack your pizza with veggies instead. Mushrooms and green peppers are both low in carbs and calories but rich with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Sneak some spinach in between the sauce and cheese for an additional nutritional boost.