You can’t out-train a jam doughnut. That may sound silly, but there’s no greater truism when it comes to nutrition.
This is the secret that ultimately separates the toned from those who are still soft around the edges.
The truth is that every sustainable and successful diet relies on your ability to stick to the plan. To do so you need to enjoy the foods you eat, but that often requires an innovative approach that supplements unhealthy meals or ingredients with better-for-you options.
So don’t undo the week’s hard work by blowing out your calorie intake at your next cheat meal. Rather make your go-to cheats more waistline-friendly with these healthy food swaps and cheat your cheat meals…
Cheat: Crumbed chicken
Cheat it: “Crumb your chicken with whole-wheat flour,” suggests Robyn Vosters, a qualified nutritionist based in Durban.
Why: Just one crumbed chicken wing from a popular fast food chain can set you back 210 calories. Rather crumb your chicken wings at home using healthier ingredients such as polenta, whole-wheat flour, and almond flour or Parmesan cheese. Frying them in olive oil instead of hydrogenated vegetable oils can also make your chicken wings healthier while still making your taste buds take flight.
Cheat it: “Make your own version by using a whole-wheat wrap as a base,” says Kelly Schreuder, a registered dietician from Hout Bay, Cape Town.
Why: You can still add your favourite toppings, such as chicken and avocado, except this way you can control your carbohydrate intake.
Cheat: Potato salad
Cheat it: “Rather cut boiled or steamed baby potatoes in half. Toss with a vinaigrette made with mustard, white wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper. Top with lots of fresh parsley,” suggests Kelly.
Why: Everyone loves a side of potato salad with a braai, but it’s laden with carbohydrates and calories from the potato and mayonnaise. By swopping it with a healthier version, you lessen your calorie and carbohydrate intake, and increase the nutrient content.
Cheat it: Try Kelly Schreuder’s salted caramel peanut butter fix. Blend ice, plain whey protein powder, banana, two dates, a scoop of natural peanut butter, a pinch of salt, vanilla extract and milk.
Why: An average milkshake can be up to 570 calories (that’s about 49 minutes of spinning). Kelly’s option not only tastes good, but also has more nutrient value. It is also a good post-workout snack option because of the whey protein powder and peanut butter.
Cheat it: Use a whole-grain flour such as buckwheat and add some mashed banana and apple sauce for sweetness,” advises Kelly, “or add protein powder, as this will make it a more satisfying meal.”
Why: Whole-grain flour is better for you. Avoid drizzling syrup on top of your pancakes. Although it’s a classic pairing. this one doesn’t provide much nutritional value. Rather eat your pancakes with Greek yoghurt and fruit for a boost of antioxidants.
Cheat: Store-bought butter chicken
Cheat it: Bikini athlete Andene Horne regularly craves this dish. Instead of resisting it, the ‘healthy girl with a sweet tooth’ (check her out on IG @healthygirl_with_a_sweettooth), creates a healthy version by cooking the chicken in coconut milk and using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. She also swops the white rice for cauliflower rice and broccoli rice, and serves the dish on shredded kale.
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Dinner tonight was inspired by one of my favorites –> @jshealth 😍 // It was SUCH a winner, thanks Jess! 🙏😘 Grilled chicken strips served with cinnamon roasted pumpkin & carrot (done in coconut oil, salt, pepper & cinnamon) served on a bed of mixed lettuce with toasted pumpkin seeds & a tahini sauce! 👅 AMAZING 💗 Xx
Why: A common store-bought version has been cooked in vegetable oil, making it high in unhealthy hydrogenated fat, and also contains cream rich in saturated fat that increases the calorie content of the dish. Taking a DIY approach allows you to control the type and amount of oil used and the other ingredients, too. For example, coconut milk is slightly lower in saturated fat than cream (it also contains lots of healthy medium-chain fatty acids) and is also considered a healthier alternative to vegetable oil for food preparation. Adding the cauliflower and broccoli rice blend makes it a low-carb option when compared to rice, and therefore is better for your waistline, while also increasing your vegetable intake for a boost in nutrients.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.