Eat X, not Y
June 9, 2011 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Recommend versions of my favorite foods, or alternatives to them, that are healthful, low-calorie, and nonetheless tasty.

I am aware of the "Eat This, Not That" books; my interest is in compiling a personalized version of them, tailored to my own go-to foods.

- Assume price is no object.
- Assume sodium level is only a moderate object.
- Of course this is subjective, but I'd rather avoid foods so healthful that you're reminded that they're healthful with every bite. For example, Amy's Unsalted Souplike Disaster Fluid. I want foods I'll still look forward to eating.
- I don't love fish, though other seafood is fine.

Examples of the sorts of conversions I'm looking for:

Ice cream >> brown rice pudding
Cheez doodles >> puffed white-cheddar rice snacks
Eggs >> egg beaters
Coffee coolata >> Minute Maid Light
Ramen noodles >> seasoned quinoa
Bleu cheese >> bleu cheese yogurt dressing
Lo mein >> soy-drenched steamed garlic broccoli
Snickers bar >> trail mix
Macaroni and cheese >> brown rice risotto

Note that the substitutes don't always have to be close counterparts to the original foods, just similar foods that will still be pleasurable.

Buffalo wings >> ?
Pizza >> ?
Chicken nuggets with ketchup >> ?
Spare ribs >> ?
Chicken cordon bleu >> ?
General Tsao's chicken >> ?
Groundnut soup >> ?
Eggplant parmesan >> ?
Chinese garlic eggplant >> ?

Olive tapenade >> ?
Pringles >> ?
Potatoes au gratin >> ?
Chinese dumplings >> ?
Guacamole >> ?
Seven-layer nachos >> ?
Feta cheese >> ?

Jordan almonds >> ?
White chocolate >> ?
Peanut butter and jelly >> ?
Yoo Hoo >> ?
Bagel with cream cheese >> ?

Thanks in advance!
posted by foursentences to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Pizza can be good if you do a whole-grain crust, go easy on the cheese (the little balls of fresh mozzarella are great), and load it with fresh tomatoes and veggies.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:42 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Although they are high(ish) in fat, items like Guacamole, feta cheese, and olive tapenade are quite good for you. As for PB &J, get the natural (no HFCS or other additives) and a good sprouty bread. As for the pringles, what about popcorn?
posted by shrimpsmalls at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2011

Honestly, none of these things have to be "bad" for you. (Except maybe General Tso's chicken, assuming it's fried.) Just eat smaller portions of the "bad" stuff and fill the other half or two-thirds of your plate with vegetables. It's a lot more satisfying for me to eat a little bit of what I really want than a whole bunch of something that is a sort of okay substitution.
posted by something something at 1:47 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Guacamole is already healthy. Yeah, avocados have calories, but they're packed with nutrients and large doses of (good) fat and fibre to keep you satiated.
posted by smorange at 1:47 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Okay let's have a go. Caveat: I believe that cutting sugar and other carbs would be a more important step than reducing calories. So this is your list answered along the lines of what some assume to be most "healthful", but re-translated into "reduce carbs" rather than "reduce calories". Ymmv.

Buffalo wings >> keep; no sugar in the sauce.
Pizza >> Eggplant Parmigiana has a lot of the pizza-y yumminess without the carby and burb-inducing crust. Easy on the breadcrumbs.
Chicken nuggets with ketchup >> Thin sliced, rosemary-pepper-garlic-spiced and olive-oil-fried chicken fillets with a tomato salad of some kind.
Spare ribs >> keep; use a rub without sugar.
Chicken cordon bleu >> keep. Easy on the breadcrumbs.
General Tsao's chicken >> eat together with substantially less rice...
Groundnut soup >> keep.
Eggplant parmesan >> Hello. See above.
Chinese garlic eggplant >> difficult one: reducing sugar robs it of it's character. Again: less rice to accompany it, and using a proper oil-draining-on-paper technique.

Olive tapenade >> eat.
Pringles >> don't eat.
Potatoes au gratin >> eat much less than you would like to.
Chinese dumplings >> same here.
Guacamole >> eat as much as you manage.
Seven-layer nachos >> don't eat.
Feta cheese >> eat.

Jordan almonds >> no. Nuts in high-chocolate-content black chocolate seem better to me.
White chocolate >> nope.
Peanut butter and jelly >> I'm more like peanut butter and a little honey, but the problem is just as much the type of bread you're using underneath. A nice brown sourdough slice seems preferable to white toast, for instance.
Yoo Hoo >> buy high-quality cocoa powder and mix your own, using some cane sugar (instead of I dunno how much highly-processed sugar) and real milk.
Bagel with cream cheese >> Cream cheese with substantially less bagel.
posted by Namlit at 1:58 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For the eggplant parmesan, bread and bake (not fry) the eggplant, go heavy on the marinara sauce and light on the cheese?
posted by kylej at 1:59 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Have the peanut butter without jelly and spread it on apple slices instead of in a sandwich.

Eliminate processed cheese. Stop eating Egg Beaters and start eating eggs again. Replace Yoo Hoo with milk and cocoa powder. Replace Jordan Almonds with almonds.
posted by caek at 2:00 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I make dessert hummus that tastes like cookie dough! One can of chick peas, a tablespoon of peanut butter (or other nut butter), 2 teaspoons vanilla, raw sugar or stevia to taste, cinnamon to taste. Mix em all in a food processor until creamy, but not liquidy. Then add 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. (It is a super-health food but it gives it that gritty cookie-dough texture.) Add some chocolate chips! Eat with a spoon! Refrigerate for true cookie-dough love!
posted by shortyJBot at 2:00 PM on June 9, 2011 [25 favorites]

Best answer: For the Jordan almonds, Emerald makes cocoa roasted almonds that are delicious and addictive. Looking at the label they seem pretty highly processed, but you could probably figure out how to make your own.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Buffalo wings >> boneless chicken breast seasoned w/cayenne, grilled, dipped in a yogurt based dip

Pizza >> thin crust, light on the cheese, baked at home (make your own dough, sauce, etc) lots of veggies. Whole grain crust

Chicken nuggets with ketchup >> baked boneless chicken bites (toss chunks of chicken breast in egg wash, roll around in some panko/breadcrumbs, bake)

Spare ribs >> ?

Chicken cordon bleu >> Baked chicken breast with shaved parmesan and peameal bacon?

General Tsao's chicken >> A chicken and veggie stirfry, no oil, brown rice

Eggplant parmesan >> Baked miso eggplant

Chinese garlic eggplant >> v

Olive tapenade >> How about 5-10 kalamata olives on a plate along with grape tomatoes, snap peas and whatever other veggies you like?

Pringles >> thin slice sweet potatoes, bake

Potatoes au gratin >> A baked potato with yogurt and shaved parmesan on top

Chinese dumplings >> Just eat these (steamed/boiled, not fried) - get veggie ones or chicken over pork

Guacamole >> the chips are the problem...just do like a fresh salad with a few slices of avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onions

Seven-layer nachos >> tortilla soup?

Feta cheese >> Just eat this (in moderation)

Jordan almonds >> A couple of these are fine. Or just have regular almonds? Or glaze them in a syrup?

White chocolate >> green and blacks organic white chocolate minis

Peanut butter and jelly >> A handful of peanuts in shell, plus a handful of fresh rasperries

Yoo Hoo >> chocolate Silk or Almond milk

Bagel with cream cheese >> If you figure this one out please call me asap
posted by SassHat at 2:31 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buffalo wings >> Put Frank's Red Hot sauce on whatever you're eating.
Olive tapenade >> Just olives
Pringles >> Popcorn with just salt. Or kale chips.
Guacamole >> Make it with just lime juice and salt, and maybe a lot of tomatoes and onions and whatnot if you like that stuff. But just no mayo or sour cream or anything like that. Some people put peas in it to get more guac with less calories. Or eat salsa instead.
Feta cheese >> Eat a little bit of it with a lot of something else, like spinach or salad.
Jordan almonds >> Regular almonds. Not too many.
Yoo Hoo >> An egg cream? Maybe not lower in calories but more calcium bang for your calorie buck I bet.
Bagel with cream cheese >> Highest fiber bagel you can find and Laughing Cow Light cheese spread.
posted by lampoil at 2:45 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll give it a go.

Buffalo Wings>>Wings and Thighs braised or baked with a garlic-ginger-soy marinade
Pizza>>I wish, haven't found anything yet
Chicken Nuggets with Ketchup>>Chicken Satay with Sambal
Spare ribs >> Fine, just do a dry rub of herbs and pepper
Chicken cordon bleu >> Spinach+Mozzarella stuffed Chicken breast

Pringles >>Oven crisped Kale with sea salt
Potatoes au gratin >> Carrots au gratin
Chinese dumplings >> grill pork/beef, wrap in lettuce

Jordan almonds >> Spiced Almonds
White chocolate >> Heavy cream
Peanut butter and jelly >> Almond butter and a little honey on Wasa crispbread
Yoo Hoo >> Horchata
Bagel with cream cheese >> Wasa crispbread with cream cheese, cherry tomatoes

Egg beaters>>Eggs
posted by 2ghouls at 2:48 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds fun.

Buffalo wings >> chicken breasts marinated with Sriracha, soy, and honey and broiled quickly (self link: like the chicken from my recipe here)
Pizza >> make your own
Chicken nuggets with ketchup >> oven baked chicken breasts with ketchup
Spare ribs >> fine
Chicken cordon bleu >> I like 2ghouls idea - spinach+mozzerella
General Tsao's chicken >> make your own chicken stir fries (here is one from Cook's Illustrated -- crispy noodle cake optional)
Groundnut soup >> fine, in moderation.
Eggplant parmesan >> also fine, but bake the eggplant instead of frying
Chinese garlic eggplant >> probably also fine, but make your own and use less oil.

Olive tapenade >> hummus made with very little oil and tahini
Pringles >> uh, maybe kale chips? Or make your own tortilla chips?
Potatoes au gratin >> DIY potatoes au gratin with less
Chinese dumplings >> lettuce wrapped grilled meat
Guacamole >> skip the avocados and make pico de gallo
Seven-layer nachos >> fewer chips and guac, more beans
Feta cheese >> totally fine, just use less of it (or buy a stronger tasting feta and use less)

Jordan almonds >> fine in moderation
White chocolate >> also fine!
Peanut butter and jelly >> I like 2ghoul's suggestion
Yoo Hoo >> plain milk?
Bagel with cream cheese >> oh man I can't quit these either.
posted by rossination at 3:46 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: I'd just like to mention here that the OP wanted low-calorie, not just healthy; guacamole can be healthy (made without sour cream, that is), but it ain't anywhere near low-calorie. You can reduce the calories, though, by substituting a drained can of garbanzos for one of the avocados (also may be much cheaper). Now that you've upped the protein in it, you can have it as a main dish with some low-fat chips or whole wheat pita chips.

You might try making a quasi-pizza using a split whole wheat pita as the base (that is, split into two circles). If you put tomato sauce and veg on that (and not a lot of cheese), you'll get a lot of nutrition for not a lot of calories.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: The vegetarian versions of ribs, burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, etc. tend to have fewer calories than their meatier counterpoints.
posted by troublewithwolves at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: A good substitute for chicken nuggets is breaded tofu. You freeze the hard tofu first, then boil it (in a big lump) while still frozen. This does weird things to the texture that makes it much more chicken like. Then cut into nuggets. Dip in egg white, then seasoned bread crumbs. Then bake them or fry in an almost dry frying pan. It's really super chicken-nuggetty, especially served with the right sauces.
posted by lollusc at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I can help w/ two of them :)
YooHoo>> chocolate almond milk
Chicken nuggets w/ Ketchup>> Quorn nuggets w/ ketchup
posted by sleepykitties at 4:55 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Using turnips, golden beets, and other non-potato root veggies in your gratin will make it significantly healthier, and if you make it yourself you can reduce the fat by being careful about what kind of dairy you use.
posted by dizziest at 6:24 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Oh, and as a Pringles substitute, try laver. Even the versions that are roasted with lots of oil are way lower in calories than potato chips, and there are some brands that don't add oil at all. You can find garlic flavoured laver or chili spiced laver in our local shops - cities with bigger Asian grocery shops might have a wider range of flavours.
posted by lollusc at 9:34 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

something something: "It's a lot more satisfying for me to eat a little bit of what I really want than a whole bunch of something that is a sort of okay substitution."

Exactly. My friend had a gastric bypass nearly 12 years ago. She eats all full-fat products now. She says if she can only have a tiny bit of a food, she wants the "best" flavor. If you think you'll eat a few bites of your "bad" food and then binge on much more, try filling up most of the way with water and healthy foods first.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:39 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Pizza on whole wheat pita bread instead of traditional crust is fast. Spare on the cheese and heap on the vegetables and enjoy.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:36 AM on June 10, 2011

Best answer: Guacamole - use avocado and blended (steamed) asparagus. Delicious and lower fat that traditional guac. Sooooooo good.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:37 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: buffalo wings or chicken nuggets--> unbreaded grilled chicken strips (tofu isn't significantly lower calorie than chicken, the calorie hit is all about the breading and frying), dipped in any sauce that's more about salt than sugar (i.e yes wing sauce, okay ketchup, not honey BBQ, not sweet and sour) and more about flavors than fat (i.e. not ranch dressing, not sour cream and onion dip, yes blue-cheese-yogurt dip). Also do your wings with lots of celery stalks. Load up on the healthy sides!

Potatoes au gratin--> spaghetti squash casserole with yogurt, and some cheese on top.
posted by aimedwander at 8:17 AM on June 10, 2011

Best answer: Another possibility when you want something crunchy like chips is papadum. The secret is that you don't need to fry them — hold one in a pair of heat-proof tongs and toast it over a hot stove burner, turning and rotating as needed to get it evenly done. (I've only ever tried this with electric stoves, so can't vouch for whether it's possible on a gas stove.) They blister up quite nicely and are delicious with mint or tamarind chutney.
posted by Lexica at 3:01 PM on June 10, 2011

Best answer: Papad work in the microwave too. (Didn't believe this until it was served to me - perfectly crispy.)
posted by jessicapierce at 8:47 PM on June 11, 2011

Response by poster: Excellent and very helpful answers throughout -- especially excited to try the hummus-cookie-dough, asparagus guac, seaweed chips, and beets au gratin. Thanks very much to all answerers.
posted by foursentences at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2011

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