One of my favorite things about being a chef is taking an existing traditional recipe and playing around with it to make it healthier—without sacrificing any flavor. Here are my go-to swaps for when junk food cravings hit:
If you're craving Mac & Cheese, try Quinoa Pasta With Walnut Miso Sauce
Don't worry—mac & cheese isn't going anywhere. This savory, umami pasta will satisfy your mac & cheese need. To make it, simply make quinoa pasta according to package instructions. For the sauce, combine teaspoon ginger juice, 2 tablespoons white miso, ½ cup almonds, ½ teaspoon soy sauce, plus 2 tablespoons water in a small processor and pulse until well-combined. Toss sauce over pasta and top with chopped toasted almonds.
If you're craving Apple Pie, try Ghee Caramelized Apples With Cinnamon + Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Who needs apple pie? Not me, ever since I discovered this quick and easy version that has all the same qualities as America's favorite dessert. Heat up a little ghee in a medium-size cast-iron pan, toss in two chopped up, peeled apples and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and cook down until caramelized, about 5 minutes. For a little crunch, top with toasted pumpkin seeds. It's sweet, tart, crunchy, and naturally gluten-free.
If you're craving French Fries, try Baked Kohlrabi Fries
Kohlrabi is a protein-filled veggie that will have you forgetting what a potato is even doing on this planet. This veggie, reminiscent of an apple crossed with jicama, is incredibly crispy and can become the perfect fry substitution. How? Just cut it like you would a regular fry. Coat the pieces with avocado oil and salt, put on a baking sheet and in a 400°F oven, and 15 minutes later you've got all you need to satisfy the inner fry fanatic that you are.
If you're craving Chocolate Chip Cookies, try Warm Oatmeal With Dark Chocolate Chips, Cinnamon, and Toasted Pecans
Chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? Your morning oatmeal just got more interesting. Make plain oatmeal as usual, but add in 1 teaspoon each of dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, melted ghee, and maple syrup, and 2 teaspoons of toasted chopped pecans. It'll smell and taste just like fresh-baked cookies!
If you're craving Pizza, try Mashed Avocado Toast With Nutritional Yeast and Sriracha
Pizza is pizza is pizza, we know. And if you have a thin crust, loaded up the veggies, and use a sprinkle of goat or Parmesan cheese, then you're not too bad off. But another option is our good old pal avocado toast. The toast mimics the crust, while the avocado is creamy and adds the element of fat you'd get from the cheese, with the nutritional yeast adding a cheesy flavor. Consider Sriracha tomato sauce, but without so many nightshades and sugar. My favorite part about this combo is that you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
If you're craving a Spicy Margarita, try Seltzer, Lime Juice, Hot Sauce, and Honey
I love a Margarita as much as the next person, but this beverage is loaded with sugar (12 grams when on the rocks, and over 150 grams in a frozen version). My favorite replacement has become the combo of a glass of seltzer, a few drops of Cholula hot sauce, one tablespoon of honey, and the juice from ½ a lime.
If you're craving a Vanilla Milkshake, try a Nice-Cream Shake
Dear Traditional Milkshakes: You'll always have a place in my heart, but I've met someone else, a nice-cream shake I can drink whenever I want without ever feeling horrible after. By combining a frozen banana, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, 1 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and vanilla, and ½ cup of almond milk, I basically have all I need to live a long and healthy life. Love, The Sugar Addict In Me
If you're craving Nachos, try Kale Chips with a Tahini Drizzle and Ground Corn Nuts
Nachos might be one of the best foods out there, but ultimately there's a better way to go about it. Have you met Kachos, or Kale Nachos? Make kale chips, then drizzle with a bit of tahini and top with ground corn nuts for that tortilla flavor.
Carolina Santos-Neves is a graduate of the Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and is presently the chef of Hungry Beast, (CDMX) a kitchen & Juice Bar that focuses on flavors from all over the world with a focus on using organic and local products. Raised in Brazil, Mexico, and New York and an avid traveler, Santos-Neves was an editor at Epicurious for five years. She's been dinner partying it up with friends and strangers practically since birth. Her favorite foods are ice cream and Brussels sprouts...but not together.