With a new year beginning and diet resolutions top-of-mind, I've been seeing a lot of articles about "food swaps." You know, subbing a healthy food for a junky one.
Several of these articles suggested a "paleo pizza" swap: crumbled cauliflower cobbled together with a few other ingredients to make a "pizza crust."
Cauliflower . . . instead of pizza crust? Why not sub apples for hot-fudge brownie sundaes? Or water-sautéed spinach instead of flaky croissants? Or raw whole carrots instead of creamy pasta? (I guess there are already zucchini noodles.)
If you can swap grated cauliflower for pizza crust, I salute you. I'm genuinely jealous because I prefer thick, deep-dish, doughy pizza crust from Fresh Brothers. It pains me that I don't prefer cauliflower instead.
I'm sure that a skilled chef can make this taste great. I've been to a raw restaurant that made raw kelp noodles taste almost decadent. But I don't think this pizza crust swap would work for me on a night when I'm really wanting pizza.
This concept got me thinking, though. Am I using any food swaps in my daily life, and if not, should I start?
I've never thought about it so purposefully, but I guess I have subconsciously adopted some small food swaps while trying to get healthier. I don't think of it so much as a "food swap" as "trying to eat better."
For example, I remembered this one when I wrote about staying healthy while working from home. If you desperately need chocolate, a dark chocolate bar can help while keeping your calories way down.
Two squares of organic dark chocolate (like these awesome chocolate bars from Trader Joe's) have 86 calories and 7 g sugar. Oreos are heavy (160 calories and 14 g sugar for three), and they're also filled with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.
I also try to refrain from putting croutons or bready things on salads. I usually put smoked almonds or flax crackers on there instead. And when I get Thai food (more often than you think), I've been ordering rice dishes instead of noodle dishes. This way, I control the amount of carbs by adding a little rice to my veggies vs. a noodle dish where everything is mixed together.
Another swap I've been trying in the winter months: herbal tea, sometimes slightly sweetened, instead of wine at night. Two very different tastes, but this saves a ton of calories (0 calories in tea vs. anywhere from 150-300 calories for 1-2 glasses of wine). Herbal tea provides the same relaxing, soothing effect as wine, plus it doesn't make your head feel heavy the next morning. That's not to say I won't be swapping out my morning tea for wine next week on vacation, though. Take that, food swaps.
My point is that you shouldn't feel pressured to "swap" your favorite foods. Your swaps will never be as delicious, and you may go overboard when you do afford yourself the opportunity to eat them.
Instead, try to find foods that will be actually *good* for you to eat more frequently as you oust some of the empty calories in your diet. Even if you don't use the term "food swap," you might find yourself inadvertently swapping foods along the way.
Cauliflower pizza image is from Paula Deen's recipe.