Think of the unhealthiest foods imaginable.
Pizza. French Fries. Cookies. Cake. Ice Cream. Burgers.
Yes, these foods tend to be made in unhealthful ways. But they don’t have to be.
With a few swaps and omissions and a dash of creativity, you can create health-conscious versions of all these foods. Learn how to keep pizza, ice cream and burgers in your life without sacrificing your hot body or your health.
The grease. The cheese. The pepperoni. They all come together to form a guilty pleasure.
It’s a challenge for people to imagine a healthy version of pizza. Unhealthy is pizza’s designated ugly fat friend that always sticks around.
Nonetheless healthy pizza can be done.
It starts with a wholesome base. Healthy pizza needs a whole-grain crust. 100% whole-grain — none of that half and half junk or refined flour with bran added back.
I opt for wheat. It’s traditional and easy and utilize with my sourdough starter so I don’t have to mess with yeast. I enjoy the tang and health benefits of sourdough crusts.
You can find the recipe for my whole wheat sourdough crust in my recipe book, Cooking CROWs.
If you’re adventurous, you can experiment with other crusts. Attempt a crust out of rice, rye or corn flour. Or make a multi-grain crust by combining all three. You can even utilize a non-grain flour such as potato or nut to form your crust. The most important aspects to a healthy crust are nutrition, fiber and unrefined flour. Ensure your crust has all three.
When choosing toppings, keep carbohydrate-heavy foods in mind. Forget cheese and meat. If you desire the appearance of a traditional pizza without the grease and dairy, choose mushrooms and carrot. The mushrooms add a meaty texture and grated carrots look similar to cheddar cheese.
My favorite is a zany combination: mashed potatoes with sautéed carrots and onions on top finished with dried parsley and oregano.
2. French Fries
Healthy french fries? Oh yes.
Homemade French fries are simple. They’re not as quick as driving through a McDonald’s, but they won’t clog your arteries with grease either.
Start with potatoes. Wash and peel your potatoes if necessary. I peel mine because skins of white potatoes contain toxins that can upset digestion.
Cut the potatoes into fry-size pieces. Small, long, big, wide — slice them into whatever size that pleases you.
Flavor the potatoes with your favorite seasonings. I season mine with black pepper, smoked paprika and turmeric. This combination enhances both the appearance and the taste of the fries.
Do not add oil to your potatoes. Oil is unnecessary to make them crisp up.
Bake in a preheated 200° C (400° F) oven for 30 minutes. Flipping them halfway will ensure crispiness. Serve with your favorite sauce or topping. My fries are tasty plain and mouthwatering when I top them with plant-based chili and mustard cheese sauce I adapted from The Vegan 8.
I was once told that my cookies weren’t cookies because they didn’t have eggs. *Eye roll*
Healthy cookies are still cookies the way healthy pizza is still pizza. It’s the idea and concept behind the food that counts, not necessarily the ingredients you put into it.
Delicious cookies may not promote health. On the other hand, they don’t need to degrade it either.
Notice the Nestle Toll House’s original chocolate chip cookie recipe pictured.
The majority of the ingredients are unhealthy. There are three ingredients that I would eat: the baking soda, the vanilla extract and the chopped nuts. However, this recipe can still be made healthy. Use the following replacements to transform the unhealthy recipe above into a treat you can guiltlessly savor:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour :: 2 cups whole-grain wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt :: nothing, salt is unnecessary
- 1 cup butter :: 1 cup puréed chickpeas
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar :: 3/4 cup puréed dates
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar :: 3/4 cup puréed dates
- 2 large eggs :: 1 mashed banana
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips :: 2 cups cacao, cocoa or carob nibs (or another non-dairy chocolate chip)
Fattening chocolate chip cookies have been converted into cholesterol- and refined sugar-free chocolate chip cookies.
Another cookie idea: 5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Several healthy alternatives to meat burgers exist. Veggie burgers, bean burgers, lentil burgers, soy burgers. You don’t need meat to make a burger.
My favorite healthy burgers are kidney bean and beetroot burgers. I mash cooked kidney beans with grated beetroot, spices and wholegrain corn flour. Shape into burgers, chill for at least an hour, then bake, pan fry or grill them until fully warmed and crispy.
I often eat veggie burgers as rissoles without a bun. If you desire a bun, sandwich your burger between wholegrain bread. Select nutritious toppings such as lettuce, cabbage, tomato, onion and sauerkraut. Pickles are acceptable in moderation but stay far away from cheese and mayonnaise.
Here’s a recipe for a Vegan Mushroom and Pinto Bean Burger. It’s delicious!
The best cakes will never be health foods. Yet it’s possible to bake a cake that won’t wreak havoc on your waistline and health.
Like cookies, replace the high fat-foods and refined sugar with healthier alternatives. Whenever I need to bake a cake I follow this recipe:
- 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
- 3/4 c mashed dates
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 mashed banana
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 cup water
The procedure to bake the cake outlined above is straightforward. Combine wet and dry ingredients separately. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet into the dry. Mix until combined, pour into a nonstick cake pan and bake in an oven preheated to 180° C (350° F) for 25-30 minutes.
Bake a chocolate cake by replacing 1/4 cup flour with cacao, carob or cocoa powder to the recipe above.
Frosting can be as simple as blending soaked dates. Another option is a whipped cream frosting made out of non-dairy milk and flavored with your favorite essence such as lemon, almond or vanilla. Fresh fruit fillings are tasteful and colorful.
6. Ice Cream
Ice cream and bikini season needn’t be frenemies any longer. The war stops when healthy ice cream comes into the picture.
There are numerous alternatives to dairy-free ice cream. Banana ice cream is my favorite. Create your own by blending frozen bananas with a small amount of water. Flavor the ice cream by adding different fruits, flavorings, herbs and spices.
A high carbohydrate dairy-free milk option is rice milk ice cream. Satisfying fattier options include selections made from nut, soy and coconut milks. I recommend tasting coconut ice cream but be warned: you’ll be hooked.
Ultra-processed white flour and too much salt are the core reasons bread is unhealthy.
White flour contains little — if any — fiber or natural nutrition. Healthy breads are made from minimally processed wholemeal flours. Wholegrain wheat is a common option but it isn’t the only one. Breads made from wholemeal rye, barley, rice and corn are healthy as well.
The healthiest breads are made at home. They will contain fewer preservatives and additives than loaves bought from the grocery store. It’s easier to ensure breads are made of 100% wholegrain when they’re made at home, too. Many breads at grocery stores labeled ‘wholegrain’ contain a mixture of wholegrain and refined grains.
Turn the health up a notch baking sourdough bread. Read about the numerous health benefits of consuming sourdough over yeast leavened breads in my article: Why I love sourdough and you should too.
As a last note: gluten doesn’t cause bread to be unhealthy. Gluten free breads aren’t healthier than breads containing gluten.
Transform other guilty pleasures into health foods with the following substitutions. It can be tricky to figure out which replacements work best in each situation in the beginning. Once you start, you’ll better understand each situation in which each substitution is appropriate.
Health = Body and Mind
In order to be healthy, we need to eat nutritiously in addition to having a healthy relationship with food. Simply restricting yourself from eating foods isn’t a healthy mindset. It’s important to know why you restrict or eliminate certain foods from your diet.
Being healthy is looking at the overall picture of your life. Don’t analyze your individual foods or meals. Rather, observe the majority of foods you regularly eat throughout your weeks, months and years.
Eating a bar of chocolate doesn’t make you unhealthy just as eating a salad doesn’t make you healthy. The unhealthy versions of the foods above can be incorporated into an overall healthy diet as long as they aren’t the type of foods you eat on a regular basis.
My favorites out of the substitutes listed above are the pizza and ice cream. I encourage trying all the recipes outlined because they’re all delicious.
Over to you: What’s your favorite food that’s unhealthy?