Turning the Tables on Fast Food

In today’s crazy busy world, there are lots of reasons we rely on fast food. Aside from the fact that it can be so tempting to eat (even though we know it’s not the best choice), it’s quick, affordable and often feels like the easiest option.

Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or much convenience when dining in a smarter, healthier way. Eating right doesn’t have to equate to a boring salad with a drizzle of vinaigrette.

The more we create foods that we crave (in healthi-fied ways), the less we’re tempted to “cheat” and/or abandon our commitment to not only getting but staying fit. (Not to mention, enhancing overall health along with boosting energy and brain power.)

Based on my wanting to prepare the very best kinds of meals for my family and all of the requests I get to makeover various dishes, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at taking favorite, indulgent, calorie-ridden meals and giving them a makeover that makes them not only healthier, but (surprise!) often tastier.

For example, my General Joy’s Chicken recipe is a lightened up version of the popular General Tso’s Chicken, which normally serves up about 1,000 calories (along with a day’s worth of sodium intake) per person. However, this recipe makeover can be enjoyed without any regret or guilt but still has all of the flavor. Oh, and did I mention that it’s only 260 calories per serving?

(No, that’s not a typo!)

What Is It You’re Craving?

For both early and not-so-early risers, my Cheezy Egg Wich Sandwich recipe has all the taste and none of the greasy hangover compared to its fast food counterpart. What’s more, this family-tested favorite has more nutrition and far less grease. And really—it’s so quick and easy to make that it still technically counts as fast food.

Craving a frothy afternoon treat from a nearby coffee vendor or Ice Cream Shoppe? My peanut butter cup smoothie recipe is not only creamy and delicious, but uses rolled oats, so a single serving packs 7 grams of good-for-you fiber. 

Tempted by a local Southwest fast food joint in your neighborhood? Try spicing things up in your own kitchen by making my healthier Turkey Tacos recipe. Trust me when I assure you that we never have leftovers when we make these at my house. Not only are they a hit with my kids, but even with their “picky eater” friends. And no one ever suspects that they’ve been made using lean swaps in place of the usual fattening ingredients. 

A Little Extra Time, A Little Less You

While whipping up these fast food makeovers might prove to be a little more time-consuming than pulling through a drive-through, the benefits of healthy eating are countless. It’s all about lowering calories and creating meals and snacks with high-quality carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Not only will your health thank you, but your form-fitting jeans will, too.

So whether you refer to past decadent favorites as fast food, junk food or comfort food, there are healthier swaps that can make them better for everyday consumption—without giving up any of the flavor.

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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