It’s hard to give up your little pick-me-ups, your after-work treats, or your I-don’t-want- to-cook-today shortcuts. If you learn these do-it-yourself tricks, you can ditch the processed versions of these foods and enjoy them guilt free.
Your lunch that was supposed to be 300 calories can quickly jump up to 400 or 500 calories when you add store-bought salad dressing. Most dressings incorporate a wheat or flour thickeners and sugar. Make this simple one at home: half a cup of lemon juice, two tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. The mustard gives the creaminess of most thickeners but with very few calories. And when you make your own, you can ensure you get real olive oil (many store-bought vinaigrettes use cheaper vegetable oils to save money).
If you’re someone who can’t eat just one (or a dozen) tortilla chips, you’ll love this low-sodium, high-fiber recipe. Just mix corn meal, water, salt and flax seeds (for extra crunch and fiber) in a bowl — go for the thickness of pizza dough. Mix this up and make small dough balls. Flatten these into tortillas and cook them in a frying pan for one minute on each side on low heat. Cut triangles out of the finished tortilla, brush each with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
You can buy most of the ingredients of your favorite breakfast cereals separately, but they won’t be coated in the sugar and syrups most cereals have. At the serve-yourself buckets at the store, buy oats, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds and make your own cereal.
Soup seems like a big undertaking, so most of us buy it canned. But canned soup is full of sodium and flour thickeners. Luckily, homemade soup freezes really well. If you take an afternoon, you can make gallons of soup and just freeze it for a rainy day. We like these 30-minute soup recipes.
Pasta sauce is another food many of us don’t take into account when counting calories. But your brown rice fettuccine or veggie pasta bowl can quickly become a fatty meal when you add pasta sauce. Most jarred varieties are high in sugar and salt, and the creamy ones use the heaviest possible cream. Make your own tomato sauce by boiling and peeling 10 or 12 tomatoes. Add them to an oiled-pot with chopped garlic, salt, pepper, one cup of water and crushed basil. Bring the entire thing to a boil and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Peanut butter is something you can add just a tablespoon of to any favorite snack and immediately get a protein boost, but store-bought brands are usually loaded with sugar and salt. Buy about 16 ounces of peanuts, and blend these up in your food processor until smooth (stop the processor and break the nuts up with a spoon when necessary). Add one teaspoon of canola oil and salt. Store the mixture in an airtight container for about a month or until the oil separates to the top; then it’s ready to eat.
Even fat-free yogurt is full of sugar or unhealthy artificial sweeteners. And the fruit is never fresh but usually seeped in syrup. Buy plain yogurt and your own favorite fresh fruit, chop the fruit, dump it at the bottom of a large Tupperware container and dump the yogurt on top.
Whatever is in those store-bought cans ceased to be real, straightforward cream a long time ago. Making it at home is easy though. Just put real heavy cream in a bowl and whisk it (with an electric mixer if you like). You’ll watch it fluff up into whipped cream within a minute. Add a little bit of sugar and vanilla to taste, and plop it on top of your favorite dessert.
Granola bars look healthy because all you can see is the oats, fruit and nuts. But if you read the ingredients you’ll find tons of sugar and binders you can hardly pronounce. Here are easy granola bar recipes.
Those little tuna and cracker boxes are so convenient for a quick protein fix. But most of that tuna has been soaked in soybean oil, which is heavy and has reputed health dangers, and some of the crackers are the butteriest, most nutrition-deficient crackers you could eat. Buy canned tuna in water and blend it up with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped celery. Buy a hearty cracker made from whole wheat or flax seeds and pack this in Tupperware.