Healthy eating does NOT mean eating stuff that doesn't taste good. Depending on where you're coming from, though, it might mean re-educating your palate. If you're used to the SAD (Standard American Diet, lots of processed and fast foods with a tremendous amount of added salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, and fake flavorings) adjusting to the taste of real, fresh food may take a little time and experimentation; but as you learn to eat foods that are fresher and less processed, you will lose your taste for too much salt, fat, and sugar. Here are some recipes that offer healthier versions of some favorite foods.
When you're trying to cut down on carbs, you may find yourself missing pasta. Two great, healthy, low-calorie alternatives are spaghetti squash and zucchini.
For a delicious and refreshing raw meal, try peeling a raw zucchini into strips with a potato peeler and topping with a chunky fresh sauce whipped up in your food processor: about 1/4 of a sweet onion such as Vidalia or Texas 10-15; a small, firm tomato and a handful of sun-dried tomatoes; garlic to taste; a handful of basil from your garden. You could even add a handful of pinenuts or walnuts for additional flavor. Top with a little shredded Parmesean cheese.
Spaghetti squash is named for the look rather than taste of its pasta-like stringy innards (which bear more of a resemblance to Thai glass noodles than Italian pasta), but you get a similar look and mouth feel, and a mild taste. There's a very nice and simple recipe to try here; but I would suggest making your own pesto so you can control the amount of oil. I make mine with a leafy green such as basil, spinach, or even cilantro; a handful of nuts such as pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans; a couple of cloves of garlic; salt and pepper to taste; and just enough olive oil to make a thick paste. There's already fat in the nuts so you don't need to add much oil; just add water to get the pesto to the consistency you like. It's fun to experiment with different pestos -- I particularly like the walnut-cilantro combination.
I've been trying to use up some stuff in my pantry before it expires (too many cans of pumpkin purchased over the holidays), so I've been experimenting with various quick breads. We don't, as a rule, buy bread or make it very often, but every other week or so I'll make a batch of something yummy we can have for breakfast or an afternoon snack with coffee.
CINDY'S BASIC QUICK BREAD RECIPE, with variations
You can use this recipe to make just about any kind of tea bread or quick bread. It's easy to make it vegan through your choices of protein powder and milk substitute. I'm going to show you the basic recipe, with a lot of variations.
1-2 very ripe bananas, creamed in the mixer; OR 1 large apple, cored and pureed in a food processor
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed, mixed with three tablespoons water (let it sit for about 5 minutes)
1 cup pitted dates, pureed in food processor, OR 1/2 cup agave syrup OR 1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 scoops whey or soy protein powder
1/2-1 cup almond or soy milk (or milk substitute of your choice)
Mix the banana or apple, flaxseed, and dates (or syrup of your choice) until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, then the vanilla and milk. Add just enough milk to reach a thick batter consistency.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray a bread pan with canola or other oil spray; fill the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and bread is pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Now, that is the VERY basic recipe.If you find it is not sweet enough for you, try topping it with some large-grained sugar before baking. You'll get an extra burst of sweetness on the first bite.
Now, the variations:
For banana bread, I highly recommend using the dates (it will be SO moist) and adding some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to taste; and topping with a handful of toasted walnuts. You can also use orange extract instead of, or in addition to, the vanilla.
Leave out the banana entirely and use a can of pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie puree. If you use the pie mix, it will already have spices and sugar, so I strongly suggest cutting the added sugar in half or 1/4.
BLUEBERRY MUFFIN BREAD
Add a cup of fresh blueberries. If you don't mind more fat, you can top with streusel: 1/2 cup walnuts, tablespoon of butter, tablespoon of maple syrup, 1-2 tablespoons of flour.
Add a chopped up apple (leave the peel on for nutrients), and spice to taste with cinnamon.
Use orange or lemon extract, add some orange or lemon zest, and substitute fresh orange juice for the milk.
You can really do whatever you want with it; it's pretty easy to make adjustments. Play around with flavors you like. And don't stress --- if the batter's too runny, add a little more flour. If it's too thick, add a little more milk. If it needs to bake a little longer in your oven, so be it. It's best served hot, but it makes great toast slices, and for parties I love to cut it up into bite-sized pieces and pile several types on my cake stand. And I highly recommend using the dates instead of a syrup or real sugar --- they are very sweet, and high on the Glycemic Index, but they're unprocessed and also add a LOT of moisture and richness. If you're watching your insulin levels, you might want to go with the apple/agave syrup combination instead, as that will be a lot less sugar and lower GI.
Experimenting with cooking can be a lot of fun and help you discover foods you like! Try taking a favorite recipe and seeing whether you can come up with a tasty, healthier alternative. You might be surprised at how easy, and entertaining, it is.