It happens… you plan out a meal plan for the week, and things change, and it’s 5PM, you are staring at your pantry and craving that comfort food… hellooo box of Mac & Cheese. I would be lying to say I don’t crave the good ‘ol packaged convenience food now and again.
To help with this conundrum, let me introduce you to my friend Krista, she is a Registered Dietician that can help us balance our undying love for a box of mac and cheese, and our desire to eat healthy.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Krista’s approach to food (which you will see below), and her realistic approach to weightloss and meal prep.
It’s not always about perfectly crisp salads and lean proteins. Sometimes you are left with that box of Mac and Cheese in your hand, or that frozen pizza and you need to make it work!
Also – she is just way cooler than me! I had to look up the word “turnt” in the Urban Dictonary – which she uses below. But most importantly, we also both have a love for home cooking and Pugs!
Krista is author of this cookbook that is currently in my own recipe book collection.
Simple, cost effective, healthy meals are so hard to come by, and all right here in her book!
She recently posted a picture on her Instagram showing how she jacked up her mac and cheese, and I was intrigued on how to make those convenience foods healthier.
Well, today is my lucky day because she is giving me and now you, 4 ways to jack up your junk food when your meal plan goes out the window.
So, Krista, how can we jack up our junk food?
First off, I hate calling it “junk” food… It’s still food, it’s just not the most healthful food. But no food is junk- some people don’t have food at all! But when I say “junk-food” you know what I mean by it, so let’s just leave that there.
Secondly, sometimes there’s a food that we just L.O.V.E. (for me.. those foods are hamburgers, pizza, and tacos- not necessarily in that order, my love for each of them is intense). And listen, I am ALL for making these foods that we love fit into our lives as regularly as possible.
I don’t believe that we need to sacrifice all the time, that diets are all-or-nothing, or that our wants can’t align with our needs. I also believe in the idea of “progress, not perfection” and that we can take these foods and make them a *little* but sometimes, a lot, healthier than their original form.
Maybe the healthified version is not 100% satisfying, 100% of the time… but maybe it works for you sometimes- you get to decide that. But if works for you any of the time, that’s progress!
So, whether it’s part of your weekly meal plan, or as a backup plan for a quick meal when life falls apart mid-week… I’ve “jacked-up” some junk foods to make old stand-by’s healthier than they are in their original form.
Jacked Mac n’ Cheese (R.I.P. KD)
- Rinse 1/2 cup split red lentils and cook at a rolling boil for about 3 minutes before adding the pasta.
- Cook the lentils and pasta until the pasta is al-dente and strain.
- Return the pot to the stove and warm milk and cheese mixture as per package directions.
- Stir in 1/2 cup frozen chopped kale and heat through.
- Return the lentils and pasta to the pot and stir to coat. Ketchup is optional 🙂
Lentils add valuable protein and fibre to what is an otherwise carb-heavy meal, and unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that kale is a superfood (that means it’s good for you!) Other vegetables that could work well are frozen peppers, broccoli florets, spinach, or sautéed mushrooms and onions.
Let’s Taco Bout It
- Try adding prepared coleslaw to your tacos: broccoli, beet, carrot, kale and regular cabbage coleslaws are super easy options that are ready-to-eat in the grocery produce section and add to tacos last minute.
- Shredded vegetables, cilantro, onions, avocado and salsa are all super healthy toppings for tacos. Adding the veggie topping means you automatically get less of the not-so-healthy stuff which is great for your heart, and your waistline.
- This is an easy fix for you if you keep frozen tacos or burritos in the freezer or if you’re tempted to stop by your favourite drive through on the way home.
Turnt Pad Thai
- Quickly sauté a couple cups of frozen vegetables in a teaspoon of coconut oil.
- Once heated through, fold in the take-out pad thai to mix.
- In addition or alternatively- add clean, dry bean sprouts to the warm pad thai until just warm but still crisp.
- Add flavourful cilantro, peanuts, lime juice and hot sauce to finish.
- Takes but minutes and your healthy gut flora will thank you.
Bully for you if you’re making pad thai from scratch (I have a good recipe on pg. 82 of my cookbook called Anytime Tofu Pad Thai, if you’re interested!) but you might not be up for it after a long and hectic day.
This is a super easy fix to take this comfort food up a notch both in flavour and in healthfulness.
Bye Felicia Frozen Pizza
- Pre-sliced mushrooms, frozen peppers, onion, chopped kale, canned pineapple, banana pepper rings, smoked tofu, lean or vegetarian pepperoni, pre-washed spinach, tomatoes (canned or fresh) are all healthful additions to your frozen pizza.
- Simply scatter over top of the pizza before popping it into the oven.
As an RD, my clients are usually pretty surprised when I suggest that they keep a pizza in their freezer for dire situations. The reality is that the frozen pizzas are usually SO MUCH BETTER than takeout- especially if you follow my advice about finding one that doesn’t contain trans fat in the crust.
There are tons of decent frozen pizzas out there, try to find the healthiest one you can enjoy and keep it on deck just incase you need it, then jack it up with the tips above to bring it more in-line with your health goals. Bonus points if you serve it with a bagged salad on the side.
I hope this helps for those times we can’t adhere 100% to our meal plans!
For more of Krista’s awesome meal time ideas, order her book here!
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