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September 26, 2016

ChEATing Clean: Healthy spins on your favorite indulgences

Nutrition Food
Christie_CauliRice Christie Mandia/for PhillyVoice

Cauliflower rice sushi

It is a common misconception that certain foods simply cannot be eaten if you are going to maintain your ideal weight and optimum health. I enjoy good food, and a life without certain things simply isn’t worth living to me. Sure, a few ingredients must be eliminated or swapped out, but I promise you won’t even notice. In fact, some of these recipes are better than the real thing and many of them will even help you burn fat.

Below, I am going to show you how you can still enjoy many of your favorite comfort foods without the guilt. I have chronicled exactly what I cook and serve in our house in a typical week to keep us healthy and satisfied. Every day has a theme to keep things interesting, yet consistent.

Sunday: Football Snacks & Pasta

There is nothing quite like the smell of meatballs and marinara simmering on the stove all day. The smell reminds me of my childhood. Unfortunately, refined carbs like pasta are no longer a part of our regular diet. The advent of the spiralizer has spaghetti and meatballs back on the table for us. 

Christie Mandia/for PhillyVoice

This time, the noodles are spiralized vegetables like zucchini or squash. What I realized is that the pasta is merely a vehicle for the meatballs and sauce, and this healthy dish is so close to the real thing my husband doesn’t even believe it’s good for you. But it is! Just spiralize your vegetables of choice and throw them in the sauce until they are hot, and enjoy! During the fall, we have football snacks before dinner like shrimp cocktail or vegetable chips and salsa.

Meatless Monday

My husband tells me that “Meatless Mondays” are the lowlight of the week, but there are so many health benefits associated with forgoing meat, even if it is just for one day, so it is worth it. Plus, we both love fish, so it is a great day to make a nice grilled filet of fish the superstar of your meal. I love mahi-mahi and Chilean sea bass and usually put it over a bed of spinach. The only seasoning I use for both is olive oil, salt and pepper. The fish takes about 10 minutes at 400 degrees for each inch of thickness. I also like to spice up the meal with a faux Caesar salad, where I whip hummus with olive oil to make the consistency a bit thinner and serve with a hard-boiled egg.

Taco Tuesday

Our favorite day of the week, by far, is Taco Tuesday. It really is something great to look forward to on an otherwise dull day. Mostly, we have ground turkey taco bowls, which couldn’t be easier to make. Simply brown the turkey in a pan and keep over medium/high heat until completely cooked through. Then I add a little bit of water and half a pack of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning and let it simmer over medium heat for a few minutes. Serve over a bed of butter lettuce with guacamole, salsa and (surprise) a scoop of plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. This is one of our favorite swaps. Feel free to add as much hot sauce as you want; many studies show that it helps boost mood and metabolism and supports weight loss by burning belly fat!

Wokky Wednesday

The week continues with Wokky Wednesday, featuring Pan-Asian flavors. The cleanup is easy today, too because the majority of the meal is cooked right in the wok. Choose your favorite vegetables and saute them in your wok, starting with garlic and onion. Add broccoli, carrots, celery, water chestnuts…whatever you would like. Then add a protein like chicken, steak or shrimp. (Variations here keep it interesting week to week.) Instead of rice, we use cauliflower rice, which you can either make yourself by putting raw cauliflower in the food processor or buy premade from a store with fresh produce like Trader Joe’s. A helpful tip is to cook the rice separately; do not add it to the wok until the last minute because a lot of water will cook off the cauliflower. Below is our shrimp “fried rice” with peppers. A little soy sauce or Sriracha is all you need for seasoning.

Christie Mandia/for PhillyVoice

Thankful Thursday

I call Thursdays “Thankful Thursdays” because we ALWAYS have cauliflower mash, and mashed potatoes remind me of Thanksgiving. For the main dish we have barbecue chicken, pork chops or turkey burgers, but we always have a green and the cauliflower mash. Cauli mash is probably our favorite healthy hack…they taste JUST LIKE mashed potatoes. They are so easy to make, too. All you have to do is steam the cauliflower until it is fork tender (you could smash it with your fork) and blend with a little garlic, and to thicken it, you can add a scoop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. The pork chop was grilled on the stovetop and served with shaved Brussels sprouts topped with a bit of honey mustard. Yum!

Friday Funday

Friday Funday is kind of a wild card day, but usually, we eat fries of some variety because who doesn’t love fries and a drink after a long week? We feel less guilty when we eat sweet potato fries instead of regular potato fries. Also, I bake them instead of frying them. I slow-roasted ribs with a barbecue rub for two hours, 30 minutes at 400 degrees and added sweet potato waffle fries to the baking sheet for the last 45 minutes. I purchased these precut and frozen from Whole Foods.

Sushi Saturday

Saturday is for sushi…and going out or ordering in because, honestly, who can cook every day of the week? This is one of our favorite days because we either pick up the cauliflower rice sushi from Wegman’s, order the three-roll special from Tsuki Sushi (OMG so good, fast and three rolls for $12.95), or we go out to our favorite sushi BYO Doma.

I hope you enjoy these clean meals (that feel like cheat meals) as much as we do. Do you have any healthy twists on favorite splurges? I would love to hear from you. I will continue to keep you posted on my health journey and would love to hear your experiences as well. Please feel free to share below or tweet me @christiemandia.

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