For the last two weeks of December, you could say that I indulged. Or you could say I became a parody of the Oprah’s Weight Watcher commercial that just goes “I LOVE BREAD.” Or you could say most of my Christmas break was spent with my face illuminated by my parent’s fridge, shoving handfuls of cold mashed potatoes down my throat with my hands. I don’t know! All I know is this: I probably have high cholesterol now, and I should fix that before Paul Ryan rips my health insurance out of my pasty hands. And even though I think the idea of “losing weight” as a popular New Year’s resolution is more representative of our obsession with thinness than anything else, I do think it’s okay to want to get healthier at the start of the year.
No matter what your body goals are, you should treat your body like an old friend who loves vegetables, and not like the dumpster outside a Wendy’s. So what can we do to eat healthier and treat our bodies nicer this month that isn't awful? Because that’s the other thing—to go from eating cheesecake to cubes of roasted sweet potatoes on a bed of uncooked spinach isn’t where I want to be, emotionally. So here are a few tips that border on healthy and are also delicious, for those of you fans of toeing the line:
1. . Substitute Butter And Cheese For Avocado
Butter and cheese make life worth living for people that can eat dairy without getting stomach cramps. Or non-vegans. Or whatever. And while there are plenty of dairy substitutes (like Chao Vegan Cheese in Coconut Black Pepper) that are incredible stand-ins for those things-- this is a healthy month, dude! And that means you got to bow to the king of Healthy Fats. The Avocado. Smear some ripe avocado on your toast in the morning with garlic powder and chili flake. Add a couple of slices onto your egg sandwich with tomato instead of American or Cheddar. Whip some up in the food processor with some basil and garlic and walnuts and make avocado pesto. Go real wild and make a veggie flatbread with no cheese and dice some avocado on top. This isn’t a sacrifice, because avocado is delicious.
2. . Use Frozen Cauliflower To Make Alfredo Sauce
I’ve made cauliflower pizza, and it’s not that good. I’ve made cauliflower buffalo wings, and they are actually pretty good. But nothing is as easy as making a substitute for Alfredo Sauce with frozen cauliflower, which is usually the sauce you get on pasta when you want to feel the most indulgent. This works surprisingly well. All you need to do is microwave two-parts frozen cauliflower and put it in a blender with around one-part liquid (with a little extra handy to reach your desired consistency). I’ve done almond milk as my liquid, and I’ve done a mix of regular milk and vegetable or chicken broth. Both work. Blend it up with a minced garlic clove, some Parmesan or nutritional yeast, about a tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat it up and add it to the pasta of your choice, with some grilled chicken or broccoli or peas mixed in. Delicious. Indulgent! Doesn’t taste like cauliflower at all. Here’s another recipe if you want one.
3. . Zoodles With Noodles
I do not get the “substitute noodles with zucchini you have spiralized” trend, and I love vegetables. It’s like ordering green juice without any fruit in it. It’s just too healthy. But pasta and vegetables can be delicious, so do a mix of ‘em both. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to make wide “fettuccine” noodles with zucchini. Add it to some real wide fettuccine noodles and top with your sauce of choice. And if that doesn’t sound good, roast a spaghetti squash with salt, pepper, and olive oil and add it to real spaghetti, with whatever sauce you choose. It’s the best of both worlds: healthy, but not quite rabbit food.
4. . Baked French Fries
Peel a few Idaho potatoes. Cut them in around three to four slices lengthwise. Cut those slices into little fry strips. Soak those fry strips in salted water from around 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pat the fries dry and toss them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and parsley. Bake them for around 45 minutes, tossing around halfway through. This is the key to delicious french fries that aren’t from a fast food place. Eat them with some baked salmon or a lettuce wrapped burger or something else you think is healthy, and thank me later.
Basically, people who eat way healthier than I do discovered that blending frozen bananas with some non-dairy milk or dates or fruit created a treat that had a consistency similar to much more delicious ice cream. While I cannot imagine they taste similar to the real thing, I’m sure they can be used as a good substitute when you want to sit in front of the television and eat Ben & Jerry’s, but you also want to be sanctimonious and healthy. Here’s a traditional recipe, and here’s one that sounds much more delicious and bad for you.
6. . Make Homemade Fried Rice
I know that one thing I’m going to constantly do during my very brief health kick is make rice bowls. My go-to is one that involved brown rice, raw spinach and cucumber, roasted chickpeas, baked sriracha tofu, and a scoop of hummus on top. It’s not very good, it’s not very bad, but it’s the kind of thing that makes us all feel healthy and good about ourselves. But what do you do with the leftover rice? You make a still-kinda-healthy, much tastier fried rice the next day. You add some coconut oil to a pan and sauté some onions and garlic in a pan. Add whatever old or frozen vegetables you have in your fridge. Add whatever meat or tofu you like. Add the rice and toss with some soy sauce and sriracha. Scramble a few eggs in the pan and mix well. Top with scallions and sesame seeds. Much better than a rice bowl.
Also, note: roasting chickpeas with spices and olive oil can be as tasty as baked chips, which tend to be disgusting.