by Dani Shugart, Chris Shugart T-Nation
Here’s what you need to know…
- Strip the calories out of your peanut butter and get the same flavor for desserts, sauces, and dips using peanut flour.
- Replace bland low-carb mashed cauliflower with mashed acorn squash.
- Bake “boiled” eggs, make no-sugar-added ketchup, and cook bacon in the oven, not the frying pan.
- Sexy-up baked chicken with mustard and prosciutto. For a change, ditch the oatmeal and make hot rice cereal… while you sleep.
- Use mint essential oil to kill cravings. Make avocado cream for a fresh twist on your favorite lean proteins.
“I need to eat healthy and lose some weight, but man, I just don’t like salads! Plus, I don’t have time to cook!”
We hear this all the time, and we have to ask:
Why do most people think healthy eating means bowls of leaves and twigs? And why do others think cooking requires hours of preparation?
It’s time to think outside the salad bowl. Here are some oddball ways to include a variety of healthy stuff in your diet. No martyrdom or culinary degree required.
1. Bake Your Bacon and Add It to Bland Meals
Harvard nutritionist Mat Lalonde redefined nutrient density by considering nutrients that were crucial to human health. Luckily for all of mankind, pork scored very high.
There. There’s your excuse to eat more bacon.
Tired of partly burned, partly undercooked bacon dripping in excess grease? Then bake your bacon, especially if you prefer it crisp. As a bonus, this unconventional act of cookery doesn’t require you to hover over a spattering pan.
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Get a roasting pan with a wire rack. Line the bottom with foil for easy clean-up and place the wire rack on top.
3. Line the wire rack with bacon. (Turkey bacon works too… if you must.)
4. Pop it in the oven and set the timer for about 20 minutes. It may take 17-23 minutes, depending on your oven and how crisp you like your bacon.
Bake up a whole package on Sunday in three batches and you’ll have bacon ready to go all week. One slice added to any “diet meal” can really make a difference in satiety.
2. The Solution for Peanut Butter Addicts
How many servings are in a jar of peanut butter? Just two… if you’re a peanut butter addict. Luckily, peanut butter cravings can be satisfied with peanut flour, minus a whole lot of calories and fat.
You don’t have to be on a low-fat diet to use defatted peanut flour. You just have to love peanut butter so much that it only makes sense to rip out the oil and excess calories.
What you’ll have left is a peanut-flavored fine powder that only needs a little water and salt to do the same things peanut butter does. Plus you can cook and bake with it. Five things to try using defatted peanut flour:
1. Use it as a high-protein, gluten-free flour and make breads, cookies, and waffles.
2. Use it to thicken and flavor up Thai peanut stew, Moroccan soup, Asian peanut dipping sauces, or creamy curry dishes.
3. Mix it into oatmeal and chocolate Metabolic Drive for a Reese’s-flavored breakfast.
4. Mix with water and a dash of salt for a light peanut butter spread.
5. Blend with sliced frozen banana, vanilla protein powder, and unsweetened almond milk for peanut butter banana “ice cream.”
Notice there’s no measurements above because peanut flour isn’t commonly used as a baking component yet. Experiment. Then for soups, stews, creamy desserts, and breakfasts, use as much as you need in order to achieve the consistency and flavor you like.
Tip: Skip the sugary stuff in jars at the store. It’s overpriced. Buy the 1-5 pound bags online which only have one ingredient: peanuts.
3. Make Grown-Up Ketchup
Here’s the secret to making the same old proteins new and delicious: sauces, dips, dressings, spices, and side dishes.
Here’s how to make a rustic ketchup that tastes like it came from actual tomatoes instead of a candy store:
1. Mix a 6-ounce can of tomato paste (not sauce) with 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the best, but any will do.
2. Add a quarter cup of water and stir out the lumps.
3. Add a couple dashes of mustard powder, a couple dashes of cinnamon, and a few dashes of salt. Taste as you go to achieve the right flavor. Feel free to experiment with cayenne, clove, and allspice too.
4. Refrigerate for about half an hour.
If you’re comparing it to regular sugar-laden ketchup, you probably won’t like it. But if you think of it as the original, real version of ketchup, you’ll love it.
4. Acorn Squash: The Ultimate Mashed Carb
In a fat loss phase? Your greatest power tool is food that’ll fill you up immediately and make you love every bite. That’s what squash can do… if you make it right.
Try mashed acorn squash. It tastes like a sweeter, slightly oniony mashed potato, and it beats the heck out of mashed cauliflower. Yes, it contains carbs. But it’ll make you full before you have the chance to eat very many. Dare you to try and overeat squash.
1. Slice an acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds.
2. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Let cool.
3. Scoop it out of the skin, add it to a pot, and mash it up using a potato masher.
4. Heat the pot and add garlic powder, pepper, and salt to taste. Thin it out with a bit of chicken stock, water, unsweetened almond milk, or sour cream till you get the desired consistency.
5. Have it on the side of any protein you’re getting tired of eating.
5. Un-Boring Your Baked Chicken
There’s a reason dieters start to resent skinless chicken: they don’t put anything on it. Yes, chicken breast is lean, which means it’s dryer than other meats. And no, it’s not naturally packed with flavor.
The solution? Add stuff that’ll make it moist and flavorful. Try prosciutto-wrapped Dijon chicken. Or even Dijon chicken without the prosciutto.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Butterfly the chicken by cutting each breast in half lengthwise almost all the way through.
3. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan with a wire rack, salting and peppering both sides of each breast.
4. Smear a liberal amount of Dijon mustard over the top.
5. Wrap each breast with a slice of prosciutto.
6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Re-Think Breakfast with Pumpkin Rice Hot Cereal
There’s more to breakfast than oatmeal and egg whites. Have some nutrient-laden squash!
Yeah, that sounds nasty, but we’re talking about pumpkin here, the squash that people make into pie.
1. In your slow cooker, combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of brown rice cereal (rice grits). This will make 4-5 servings.
2. Stir in a 15-ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin.
3. Add several dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove or use a pre-made pumpkin pie spice blend.
4. Before going to bed, set your slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours. It’ll be hot and ready when you wake up.
5. Stir in a serving or two of vanilla Metabolic Drive after cooking or reheating.
Options: Replace the brown rice cereal with steel-cut oats. Replace the pumpkin with two bananas or apples.
7. Suck On This: High-Protein Popsicles
You know you’re craving cold stuff in the summer. You know you need more protein. And you know that berries are good for you. So let’s combine all those into dessert.
1. Pick up some cheap popsicles molds. Can’t find them? Use small paper cups and chopsticks or plastic spoons.
2. Blend all this together: two cups of Greek yogurt, 2 cups of berries (your choice), one-third cup of canned coconut milk, and 1 scoop of vanilla Metabolic Drive.
3. Pour into freezer molds, freeze for a couple of hours, consume, bliss out.
Options: Replace the berries with pineapple or banana. Use different flavors of protein powder. Add flaked coconut. Add low-calorie sweetener of choice if needed.
8. Make Fart-Free “Boiled Eggs” in the Oven
Hard-boiled eggs are a convenient source of grab ‘n go protein. Trouble is, most people screw them up.
If your boiled eggs have a gray-green skin around the yolks, you’ve overcooked them. It’s okay to eat, but ferrous sulfide doesn’t smell or taste all that great.
Here’s an easy fix with no clean-up: bake ‘em instead of boiling them.
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place a dozen raw eggs in a dry muffin tin.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, give or take a minute.
4. After cooking, drop them into a bowl of ice water. This halts the residual cooking process. No more Hulk yolks or sulfur farts.
9. Try Mint Essential Oil
So it’s not technically a food, but mint essential oil is one of the coolest things you can have on hand. Just be careful. It’s potent stuff.
One drop in a liter of water is plenty. Or add a drop or two to your chocolate protein shakes for a York Peppermint Patty flavor.
Why use it? First, peppermint is known for its appetite-suppressing effects. Of course, if you’re hungry, then eat. But if you’re just scrounging around the fridge because you’re bored, try some peppermint-infused ice water and go relax somewhere else.
It has a chilling effect on the palate, and you may find the snacks you were craving before a little less appetizing.
Peppermint is also said to boost energy and soothe stomachaches. You be the judge.
10. Put Avocado Cream on Everything
If Greek Tzatziki sauce and guacamole had a baby it would be this.
Avocado cream tastes good with fish, poultry, baked potatoes, veggies, and in sandwiches.
1. Mash up an avocado and combine it with a quarter cup of sour cream.
2. Add a few liberal dashes of dried dill, onion powder, garlic, and salt to taste.
Optional: Add 5-6 roughly chopped Kalamata olives and half a can of drained, roughly chopped artichoke hearts.
Bonus! Customize Your Half-And-Half
Heavy cream in coffee is delicious. It’s also virtually lactose and carb-free. But a serving size is only 1 or 2 tablespoons and it’s very dense in fat and calories.
Unsweetened cashew and almond milk are good too, and a serving size is relatively large without a lot of calories. Problem is, these unsweetened nut milks aren’t as rich and creamy as heavy cream.
So why not combine the two?
1. Grab a bottle of some sort and fill it half way with organic heavy cream.
2. Fill it the rest of the way with unsweetened cashew or almond milk.
If you’d prefer a different ratio than 1:1, just add less (or more) of one of the ingredients. Who says it can’t be “two-thirds and one-third” creamer?
Then enjoy a big, creamy cup of coffee.