How to Eat Those "Bad" Foods - and Feel Virtuous
By Sheryl Kraft
If you're watching your weight and/or eating for health (and isn't that most of us?) and the holiday cheer is making you grumpy because you feel deprived, better not pout.
You don't have to give up treats like ice cream and pizza. Here are some ways you can have your, er, cake and eat it, too.
READ: Simple Food Swaps for Healthy Holiday Eating
If You Must Have...Pizza
The Unhealthy Way: Deep-dish pies are so good because of their thick, dense crusts, which considerably raises the calorie and carb count. And the pie is usually not without globs of fattening whole-milk cheese and greasy toppings like pepperoni, bacon or sausage.
Have It This Way: Order thin-crust pizza. Better yet, opt for one with a whole-wheat crust. Substitute meat toppings with grilled chicken and lots of veggies like onions, mushrooms, peppers and broccoli. They'll help fill you up and are nutritious to boot. Swap out the full-fat cheese with reduced or no-fat mozzarella, or skip the cheese topping altogether; instead, sprinkle on some fresh parmesan -- its flavor goes a long way.
READ: Eating To Beat Stress and Depression
If You Must Have...Popcorn
The Unhealthy Way: It may smell heavenly, but movie-theater popcorn (and many other commercially-prepared varieties) is popped in artery-clogging coconut oil, then topped with butter. Worse than that, the portions served in theaters can be equivalent to as much as 20 cups, sending the calorie count way up into the stratosphere.
Have It This Way: If you can't watch a movie without munching, either bring your own lower-calorie stash of popcorn (as in air-popped) or pack some other nutritious snack like whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese. (But remember: even "healthy" foods can pack on the pounds if you eat too much of them.)
If You Must Have...Eggs
The Unhealthy Way: When you order eggs at a restaurant, a few things are likely: they'll be fried in butter or oil, smothered in cheese, or served with greasy potatoes and fatty bacon or sausage.
Have Them This Way: If making your own at home or ordering at a restaurant, opt for poached, soft- or hard-boiled. For omelets, use two to three egg whites for every yolk to keep the calories low (whites have just 16 calories, while whole eggs have 72 each), and use low-fat cheese and spinach or other veggies for a filling. Prepare using a cooking spray, or if out, ask for your eggs dry -- it's likely the griddle will already be slick enough so they don't stick.
READ: What's For Breakfast: Oatmeal You Can Eat Out of Your Hand
If You Must Have...Pork
The Unhealthy Way: Bacon and other fatty cuts of pork are high in artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol; up to 80 percent of the calories in regular hot dogs comes from fat (much of it saturated).
Have It This Way: Before cooking pieces of pork, trim off any excess fat. Swap out your pork hot dogs for lean chicken or turkey sausages for less fat and high-quality protein. Try pork tenderloin, a much leaner cut. Substitute Canadian or turkey bacon for regular bacon. (If you're ordering the bacon at a restaurant, request they cook it without oil, or heat it in the oven.)
If You Must Have.. Bagels
The Unhealthy Way: These dense and starchy (and therefore, caloric) rounds are often made with refined flour. And there's no fiber or nutrients in the word "refined." The size of an average bagel makes it equivalent to about four to five slices of (worthless) white bread.
Have It This Way: You're much better off with choices like whole-grain English muffins, whole-wheat bread or sandwich thins. If your craving for a bagel won't let up, search out oat bran or whole wheat bagels, which, fortunately, are becoming more and more common in many places. You can also look for smaller bagels or even scoop out some of the bready stuff on the inside. Top with light cream cheese or a heart-healthy nut spread.
If You Must Have...Cake
The Unhealthy Way: Unfortunately, the combination of oil, sugar, flour and other ingredients like sour cream makes cake calorie-laden no matter which way you slice it.
Have It This Way: If you have lots of willpower, cut yourself a small sliver and savor each bite. If not, best to avoid it altogether, or make your own, substituting those unhealthy ingredients with better-for-you things like whole-grain flour, applesauce, cherries, roasted beets, prunes and low-fat sour cream. (This is good enough for the American Cancer Society: Its official cake for the "More Birthdays" campaign is a healthful twist on the red velvet cupcake cake -- aptly named "New Red Velvet Cake" -- that contains a lot of these wholesome ingredients.