Fit Cooking: Healthy Junk in the Trunk

This past week I wrote a piece on the whole juice detox movement, which’ll probably replace solid food consumption in like 10 years or so, but it’s purpose was to do some research on something I am interested in trying, in order to cleanse my system rather then drop the 10 or so pounds you’re said to lose. I love food, I’ve said that plenty of times and I think it’s something that a lot of fitness trainers should say out loud more often because people look at us and automatically assume we’re either on the Paleo diet or the No Eating Diet. Yet, they’d be surprise to find out that their Hulk of a trainer is downing Mcdonald’s 10 minutes before his session with them.

Is he a hypocrite? No I don’t think so unless of course he lies about eating fast food every now and then. Many fitness trainers are also certified nutritionist but I bet more then half of them aren’t truthful about their guilty pleasures, food wise that is.

I recently heard that an Olympic champion admitted to going heavy on the quarter pounders’ to help her put on some muscle for the next games. The woman newscaster was kind of freaking out about it, which I’m sure is because the pressure of being on TV forces her to forsaken much of her favorite foods, while the man newscaster was like “what? it’s completely fine.” I think the whole interaction just drives home the idea of people thinking if there’s not lettuce involved, it needs to be avoided.

Would I recommend going crazy on the quarter pounders’ ? No. Because I’m not a fan of heavily processed foods with a ton of preservatives. But obviously she know’s what she’s doing considering she has the title of professional athlete.

So what’s the best way for those of us who may want to gain some muscle without overdoing the processed carbs and turning our abs into flab? Substitutions….and of course Cardio.

Ingredient substitution is my way of maintaining a healthy junk in the trunk (read: nice firm butt). I think substitutions allow us to actually enjoy the gift of good food without compromising our hours in the gym. The above pictures is one of my favorites because from experience, I think when people are trying to slim down they pay more attention to the scale then they do the mirror.  By focusing on proper exercise, eating habits and actually paying attention to your body, you’re able to gain muscle weight and also gain a banging body without the unnecessary stress of “losing weight”. I don’t know what the woman in the above picture diet consisted of, but I would guess a lot of protein, vegetables and good carbs like wheat and whole grains, you know the staples. Healthy ingredient substitutions are easy and D.I.Y. so you don’t have to go rushing to a nutritionist or spend hundreds of dollars on specialty food services.

Here’s some of my favorite substitutions that I personally feel like wouldn’t change the overall taste of the meal and you’ll probably be surprised by some. But be sure to check out these links for more options.

-J.S. Gates


Vanilla for sugar: Cutting sugar in half and adding a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement can give just as much flavor with significantly fewer calories. Assuming the recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! You can’t sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you’re whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Marshmallow Fluff for frosting: Replacing the fat and sugar in frosting with marshmallow achieves the perfect consistency with many fewer calories. While two tablespoons of marshmallow has just 40 calories and 6 grams of sugar (and no fat!), the same amount of conventional frosting can pack up to 100 calories, 14 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fat.

Evaporated skim milk for cream: It’s the same consistency with a fraction of the fat. Evaporated milk tends to have a bit more sugar (only about 2 grams), but the major drop in fat content is well worth the switch. This substitute is an even swap, too (1 cup cream = 1 cup evaporated milk)!

Graham crackers for cookies (in pie crusts): Who doesn’t love a fresh baked cookie-crust pie? Next time, refrain from the traditional sugar or Oreo cookie crust and grab the graham crackers. Reduced-fat graham crackers offer the same consistency and flavor with about half the calories of the conventional options.

Applesauce can replace oil (and some sugar) to make healthier cakes.

Coconut flour for flour: High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is a great partial substitute for wheat flour in baking recipes.  Be careful, though — using more than half a cup at a time could allow the flour’s bitterness to take over. Substitutes can be tricky in baking, so when using coconut flour, be sure to add an equal amount of extra liquid! In baked goods, you generally want to substitute only 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour for 1 cup of wheat flour.

Zucchini ribbons for pasta: Thin strips or ribbons of zucchini are a great stand in for carb-packed pastas. Plus, it’s one excuse to skip the boiling — simply sautee for a few minutes until soft.

 Olive oil for butter: When cooking eggs, this simple switch is a great way to cut down on saturated fats while getting a healthy dose of essential omega-3 fatty acids. I personally do this for my eggs and also as salad dressing with a bit of seasoning salt, avocado, tomatoes, green onions and a bit of cheese.

Prosciutto or pancetta for bacon: Bacon is often the go-to for that smoky flavor in savory dishes (and even in somesweet ones). But opting for a few slices of prosciutto or pancetta can help cut both calories and fat. While bacon has about 70 calories and 6 grams of fat for two slices, prosciutto has just 30 calories and 4 grams in an equally weighted sample.

White-meat, skinless poultry for dark-meat poultry: The biggest chicken debate to date: white meat vs. dark meat. And the white meat has it beat — lower in calories and fat, higher in protein and iron.

Ground Turkey for ground beef: Ground turkey (or chicken) is a great substitute for ground beef to cut down on saturated fat and calories. Reminder: Because of the lower fat content, ground poultry often ends up drier than beef, but a few tablespoons of chicken stock can solve the problem in a snap!

Garlic powder for salt: Just like fresh herbs, garlic powder can provide a flavorful-punch without adding sodium. A word of warning, though: don’t mistake garlic powder for garlic salt.

Cinnamon for cream and sugar (in coffee): Cutting out the cream and sugar in favor of a sprinkle of cinnamon can cut up to 70 calories per cup. Plus, cinnamon can boost metabolism.

Nuts for croutons (in salads): Every salad needs that extra crunch. But rather than getting the extra carbs (and often fat and sodium) that come with croutons, try some lightly toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts.

Red wine for white wine: While white wine is usually lower in calories, red offers health benefits unmatched by the white stuff, including cancer-fighting compounds and natural cholesterol checks.

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