Healthy Alternatives (that taste good!)

I used to get those Eat This, Not That emails and I love the concept. Rather than giving up foods you love and find comfort eating, it’s much easier to make the transition by choosing healthier alternatives.

(There is a caveat – I have a hard time getting excited about meat substitutes that are supposed to taste like meat. Tofu processed to look and taste like meat is not a reasonable substitution for a Thanksgiving turkey, sorry.)

I’m talking more about an alternative when it comes to packaged or already prepared foods. A lot of people are confused by the tricky labeling in grocery stores, don’t know the calorie count at their favorite fast food restaurant (unless you’re in NYC), or just generally have a misunderstanding of how to determine which choice is healthier. This is not your fault. It’s not like you don’t WANT to know what’s healthiest for you, it’s that you’re constantly being deluged by mixed messages.

Soy lowers your risk of cancer. Soy increases your risk of cancer. Fruit and carrots have carbs, which are bad. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Drink red wine for antioxidants. Women who drink have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.

We could go on forever.

So what follows is my personal Eat This, Not That list, which I myself follow. I have personally made these transitions (slowly) and found they left me feeling happier and healthier. My own criteria is very different from Men’s Health, and maybe you find that half this stuff on the list causes cancer, in which case, keep it to yourself. But seriously, what doesn’t at this point? I’m not going to live on broccoli and spinach alone.

Note – I’m not saying the originals are the worst foods ever to be avoided at all costs. Rather, this list is meant to help you “kick it up a notch” and take your healthy eating to the next level. The original Eat This, Not That list is pretty basic to help you make more elementary changes. I made the below switches after I had already followed all the advice in SelfHungry GirlMen’s Health, etc. and found it lacking (and not helping!). Where then, did I find all these great products? Well, at the supermarket … and from all my friends in the blogosphere, of course!

After Meal Treat/Appetite Suppressant:

Original: Sugar-free Peppermint Gum

Replacement: Celestial Season’s Peppermint Tea

I read once (probably in Self) that before a bikini shoot, this one celebrity stylist always has his clients drink Celestial Season’s Peppermint tea like it’s going out of style. Makes sense because tea is water (good), it fills you up (also good), and it makes you lose a little water weight right before you need to (nice side effect before a beach trip). Something about the peppermint seems to calm the digestion so I love it right after a big dinner or whenever you’re feeling a little unsettled. Plus, it tastes great.

On the other hand, the sugar-free gum (widely espoused by Bob & Jillian because Wrigley’s is a BL sponsor) causes you to swallow air bubbles as you chew, which can give you an upset feeling and gas … Nice. People trying to lose weight (or quit smoking) tend to chew gum constantly, trying to replace their snacking habit. Unfortunately, too much of that artificial sweetener can lead to more gas and other related unpleasent side effects.

Where to find: Wherever tea is sold. Your local Safeway/Giant should carry it.

Drink Sweetner:

Original: Splenda

Replacement: Agave Nectar

I had a brief fling with artificial sweeteners when I did the South Beach Diet. We can go back and forth about the pros and cons of this “fake sugar” but suffice to say, I’ve experienced the side effects myself and they are way not worth it for me. For people who aren’t as affected, suffice to say there’s not enough evidence or research on the subject for me to feel comfortable that artificial sweeteners are completely safe.

In contrast, agave nectar is all natural, baby. I use it in my mixed drinks like Larena’s Sangria because it lends a pleasant flavor all it’s own and is lower on the Glycemic Index Scale (translation: less of a “sugar crash” and better for those with diabetic tendencies). If you’re looking to sweeten something like coffee, and don’t want the honey-like taste, you can check out Stevia, but I haven’t personally tried it.

Where to find: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s


Original: Wheat Thins

Replacement: Mary’s Gone Crackers

Here’s a disclaimer. G doesn’t like these crackers. I think they’re awesome. I most commonly call them, “crack” as in, “G, do we have any crack at home?” or, “I can’t wait to get home; I know I have some crack left!”

The second disclaimer is they do not taste like wheat thins. Do not eat these crackers thinking that they will taste like wheat thins because you will be SORELY disappointed, when really, you should be appreciating all the goodness that is the “crack.”  These crackers are wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan, contain no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, AND they come in a BLACK PEPPER FLAVOR which is definitely my two favorite things in the world combined – Crack + Black Pepper. They are AWESOME smeared with some kalamata olive dip, or hummus, or goat cheese.

Can you tell I’m addicted? I used to finish a box of wheat thins in a week, now I finish a box of Crack. Luckily, the Crack box is smaller so I eat less, and more expensive so I buy less, in addition to being healthier all around.

Where to find: Whole Foods, The Real Food Company, Health food stores

Original: Tostitos Restaurant Style

Replacement: Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Chips

Oh yum, I love these chips. They also come in Hot Red flavor for those who like it spicy. They hold up better when dipping Superquick Guac, and have more flavor and a better nutrition profile than Tostitos. I know everyone always suggests the Guiltless Gourmet brand, but one, I can never find them in my grocery store and two, they’re a little thin and tasteless for me.

Where to find:
Safeway/Giant, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s (I think), and sometimes at your corner store


Original: Arnold’s Whole Wheat Bread

Replacement: Ezekial Bread

When I said earlier that these switches are meant to “kick it up a notch,” I was thinking especially about this swap. I too am a fan of Arnold’s 100-calorie sandwich thins (I think they taste really good as alternatives to hamburger buns) but once I tried Ezekial products, I couldn’t feel virtuous about whole wheat bread after that. They use freshly sprouted live grains, which gives the bread a nutty, healthy flavor. I keep a loaf in the freezer for whenever I want a panini or veggie burger. Give it a try. You may not like it – totally your choice. But I’m a convert. PS-Haven’t tried the Cinnamon-Rasin one, but it’s supposed to be DELISH for breakfast.

Where to find: They actually sell these products in my local Safeway, but this is California, so that might be why. Because it’s sprouted bread, the tortillas will always be in the refrigerated section and the loaves will be in the frozen aisle. Check near the Amy’s frozen meals. They should definitely have it at Whole Foods.

Breakfast Bars:

Original: Luna Bars

Replacement: Lara Bars

Ingredients in the Nutz Over Chocolate LUNA Bar: (Soy Rice Crisp [Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Rice Flour], Organic Toasted Oats [Organic Oats, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice], Organic Peanuts, Organic Soy Flour, Organic Flaxmeal), Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Coating (Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Cocoa, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla), Inulin (Chicory Extract), Organic Peanut Butter, Peanut Flour, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Oat Syrup Solids, Natural FlavorsSea Salt.

Ingredients in the Cashew Cookie Lara Bar: Cashews, Dates.

In college, I probably ate about three LUNA bars a DAY. They taste like candy bars. Coincidence? My favorite Lara bar flavors: Cashew Cookie, Apple Pie, Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie, Banana Bread, Coconut Cream Pie

Where to find: They sell these things in the drugstore for pete’s sake. In the “diet” aisle probs right next to the Luna bars. Or at regular grocery stores.

Quick Fix:

Original: Ramen

Replacement: “Healthy” Ramen

I’ll be honest, I probably haven’t done as much due diligence on this KOYO product, but I really love it. Plus, the ingredients look good and the organic noodles are baked, not fried. I like sometimes just boiling up the four-minute noodles, throwing out the seasoning packet, and using the noodles to bulk up my stir fry. The Lemongrass Ginger seasoning flavor is nice though. Avoid the Seaweed seasoning at all costs.

Where to find:
Whole Foods, The Real Food Company, Health food stores


Original: Nonfat Vanilla Chai Latte

Replacement: Vanilla Roobios Soy Latte (no syrup)

Somehow I went from Grande Double Shot Espresso Vanilla Bean Frappachinos in college to not being able to process caffeine. I’m still trying to figure it out, but until then, even caffeinated tea is out for me.

If you love the tasty Starbucks lattes, but don’t want the added caffeine, dairy, and sugar, the Vanilla Roobios tea is herbal so no caffeine, the soy milk is flavored Vanilla so you still get the tastiness, and you can just ask for yours with no syrup. Also – I still don’t know how to pronounce it properly but frankly, I don’t think the baristas do either.

Subway (eat fresh!):

Original: Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Replacement: Veggie Delite

What did Jared eat twice a day from Subway before the marketing people found him and made a whole list of low calorie options for “Jared’s Favorites”? Yep, two Veggie Delites every day with all the veggies and just vinegar as his condiment. Rather than ordering questionable meat in a questionable sauce that’s then microwaved before you eat it, why not go with the one thing on the menu made completely from real foods? Also life changing: switching your mustard or mayo condiment to the vinegar and Italian seasonings. They’ve got a shaker of it, even if it’s not immediately out on the counter.

Phew, that was a doozy of a post. Anyone else have some good alternatives they’d recommend? Have you tried any of these swaps before? Do you love Crack as much as I do? Let me know if this is useful – I can keep it up aaaaaaalllll day.

10 responses to “Healthy Alternatives (that taste good!)

  1. I have been meaing to try “crack” for awhile now!

  2. This post is probably one of the best I’ve read anywhere in the blogosphere in ages. I love your tips, and my stomach is grumbling just looking at your suggestions. Now if only Korean grocery stores carried most of these items…

  3. Great post!!!! I eat or drink almost everything on this list!

  4. What a fun post! Thanks for putting this together!

  5. AWESOME AWESOME post.. I always have ezekiels, laras, marys, and agave in my kitchen at ALL times!! 🙂

  6. Fantastic post! I also like using House Foods Tofu Shirataki noodles in home made ramen on occasion.

    They can also be found at Whole Foods in the tofu chilled section. A great transition food while giving up pasta.

  7. Thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog and for the tofu advice. I’m going to try your “method” here in the next day or two. I appreciate the tip:)

    And what a great post! I love ezekiel – and I totally know what you mean about not wanting anything else. Also, cashew cookie is my favorite lara bar as well. I haven’t tried the Rooibus vanilla, but I’ll have to because I LOVE the Awake Tea Latte with soy and no syrup added!

  8. I love larabars. They are definitely the best snack bar.

    Here’s an interesting article about agave you might like

  9. Excellent post, lots of great information!

  10. Ok Thank for this idea Koyo Ramen-lemon Grass Ginger

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