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Ways to Trick Out Your Meals

By Linda Childers
Posted On Mar 04, 2021
Ways to Trick Out Your Meals

Sip, crunch, and munch your way to no-fear noshing! It’s easy if you break out these bite-boosting tips.

Are visions of chocolate keeping you from reaching your weight-loss goals? Do you dread the holiday season because you fear decadent desserts and delicious cocktails will lead to the vice of overindulgence?

The good news—you don’t have to go cold turkey on your guilty pleasures and feel deprived. By making a few simple substitutions, you can lower cholesterol, fat, sugar, and calories without sacrificing flavor. Who said you can’t have your guilt-free cake and eat it, too?


Smoothies seem like the perfect meal replacement and snack, but when you consider many are made with dessert ingredients like added sugar, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sherbet, it makes healthy sense to whip up your own homemade versions.

Catherine Ruehle, a holistic nutritionist, wellness food chef, and author of Let Us All Eat Cake: Gluten-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Cakes (Ten Speed Press) has found a way to do just that.

“I use a basic formula and plug in different healthy ingredients to serve up variations,” Ruehle says. “Not only are you getting a smoothie with a solid nutritional profile, but a tasty one, too.”

Ruehle’s basic smoothie formula [serves two]

1½ cups nut milk

Coconut water or cooled herbal tea

3 cups mixed baby greens and fresh parsley

1-2 cups frozen fruit

1 cup fresh fruit

Optional protein or superfood powder

“Adding greens gives your smoothie a nutritional boost and helps balance out the sugar in the fruit,” Ruehle says. “When adding protein powder, it’s critical to read the ingredients, since some contain highly processed, low-quality proteins, chemicals, artificial colorings and flavors, and preservatives.” If you must sweeten your smoothie, she advises that you use a natural ingredient, such as raw honey or pitted Medjool dates. That adds nutritional value along with sweetness.


Sometimes a girl just needs a cookie, but there’s nothing worse than biting into a sorry substitute that tastes like cardboard. Fortunately, Danielle Walker, founder of Againstallgrain.com and author of the cookbooks Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well and Feel Great (Victory Belt Publishing), and Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime (Victory Belt Publishing), created a chocolate chip cookie that’s worthy of craving.

“For my Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies, I use protein-rich almond flour and high-fiber coconut flour instead of white flour,” Walker says. “For the sweetener, I use a low-glycemic coconut sugar and a touch of honey.”

Walker, who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the tender age of 22, eliminated grains, dairy, and legumes from her diet, and started her blog to help others in search of grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free alternatives.


Pizza, a perennial favorite for many of us, can also pack on the pounds. The portion sizes and myriad toppings often tally into an entire day’s worth of calories and saturated fat in a single meal.

When ordering out, opt for a thin crust over a thick or stuffed version, and choose lean meats and veggies over high-fat meats and extra cheese. By doing this, you’ll get the healthy serving of veggies and protein you want without the added saturated fat and calories.

If you decide to make your own pizza at home, opt for easy pre-made whole-wheat dough that adds fiber but cuts calories, or try Walker’s technique to fulfill cravings.

“I make a Pepperoni Pizza Pasta [featured in Meals Made Simple] in which I replace the crust with squash noodles, but still get all of the same flavors as a slice of pizza,” she says.


While there’s nothing quite like sipping a chilly, citrusy margarita al fresco with friends, the calories and sugars in cocktails can really add up. A typical 12-ounce frozen margarita served in a bar or  restaurant contains 410 calories, with 56 percent of those calories from added sugar.

“I make a healthier margarita using honey syrup and fresh lime juice instead of simple syrup and sugary mixers,” Walker says as a way to cut down on sugar.

Reduce calories even more by using fresh orange juice instead of triple sec, and fresh fruit like strawberries or watermelon for sweeteners. These small changes can bring down the calorie count of a margarita by some 150 calories.


Pudding may be comfort food for many of us, but many store-bought varieties are packed with calories, sugar, and artificial colors and flavors.

Adiana Castro, a registered nutritionist and founder of Compass Nutrition, a private nutrition counseling practice in New York City, has a healthier alternative to spoon into.

“I use canned organic pumpkin and mix in cinnamon and nutmeg,” she says. A cup of fiber-rich pumpkin has 49 calories and is rife with immune-boosting, skin-protective nutrients such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and carotenoids—a  pretty smooth alternative.