Meal Shakedown: Tacos

16 Nov 2016 no comments admin Categories delicious, health, Uncategorized

Tacos are the way to the heart, amirite? But it’s also a good way to eat excess calories and gain some unwanted fat! Let’s take one of our comfort foods: the taco, and see if we can make it more calorie friendly!

 

The Damage:

3 soft flour tacos – 255 calories

Chicken – 180 calories

Salsa – 20 calories

Cheese – 100 calories

Sour cream – 115 calories

Guacamole – 200 calories

 

Total: 850 calories

 

That’s not even counting if we were to have a side of rice and beans or any type of drink! This would make your meal well over 1000 calories.

 

How can we lower this calorie bomb? Let’s start with the shells. We can switch to soft corn tacos, or even take away the shell altogether and put them in romaine lettuce. All we need is a vehicle for the filling, so why not take away 255 calories altogether?

 

A good tip when ordering food is to choose ONE source of fat. On these tacos, we got three: cheese, sour cream AND guacamole. That’s fat overkill. You can choose which ever is your true love, but for the best nutritional bang for your buck, choose the plant source: avocados! Some restaurants add sour cream as a filler for their guacamole, so make sure to ask. If you want to skip the filler ask for diced avocado straight up!

 

Salsa is generally low in calories and full of veggies, so spice it up! Try chunky tomato salsa, salsa verde and hot varieties.

 

With these changes, we now have a more diet friendly meal:

 

Romaine lettuce – ~10 calories

Chicken – 180 calories

Salsa – 20 calories

Guacamole – 200 calories

 

Total: 410 calories

Much better! Now if you have the calories to spare, we can have room for double meat (more protein, which fills you up), or rice and beans as a side, or maybe even a margarita (you DO get a cheat meal at least once a week!).

Meal Shakedown: Macaroni & Cheese!

 

One of the ultimate comfort foods, stemming from those blue Kraft boxes, is macaroni and cheese. Warm, gooey, and cheesy are the flavor notes to hit. But what tends to happen is a huge bust to the calorie budget!

 

The real killer with mac and cheese is that no one, and I mean NO ONE, sticks to the serving size alloted on the box, which is only ½ cup. This tiny ½ cup portion has a whopping 180 calories and 50 grams of fat! Let’s do some quick math. Say you stick to a modest 1 cup portion, which probably isn’t going to keep you full since there’s no protein or vegetables added to this dish. That’s almost 400 calories and 100 grams of fat. Let’s say you’re filing a bowl to your heart’s desire and end up eating 2 cups worth. So, 720 calories and 200 grams of fat for a meal you will be physically stuffed from, but not satisfied. Are we doomed to say goodbye to our beloved mac and cheese forever? No way, says I!

 

I’ve hinted at the problems in this childhood favorite. They are: lack of lean source of protein, lack of vegetables, too much fat. So our fixes will remedy these accordingly!

  1. Lack of Lean Protein

If you are only consuming mac and cheese for dinner, then you are likely to consume a ton of calories without feeling at all full. I recommend adding 4-6 ounces of a lean protein like baked chicken breast or ground turkey to your bowl. This will give the meal a much needed protein boost. Try to avoid fatty pieces of meat like steak or pork if you’re not also doctoring up the original recipe to lower the fat, because remember, the ½ cup serving already has 50 grams of fat, which may be close to your daily fat goal.

 

  1. Lack of Vegetables.
    The best way to control your meals is to fill your plate with vegetables! You can chop 1-2 cups of vegetables and add it to your ½ cup portion of pasta. This is an easy way to increase meal volume without adding a ton of calories. The best part is the cheese sauce, who cares if it’s covering a piece of enriched macaroni or a piece of broccoli.

 

If you’re really cutting calories or don’t have a ton of wiggle room if your daily goal, you can go a step further and totally cut out the carby pasta. You can add only vegetables, and focus on the cheesy goodness to soothe your craving, or you can try some of the varieties of low calorie pasta available near the tofu section in your supermarket. These are refrigerated and bagged in liquid, which is highly recommended to be rinsed thoroughly before tossing in your cheese sauce.

 

There’s also protein pasta available, and pasta made from alternate sources. Trying to stay more plant based but still need that mac and cheese goodness? Try pasta made from chickpea flour or black beans. If you want to stay super fresh, try spiralizing squash or potato and then giving it a rough chop (to more resemble the shorter pasta used in mac and cheese) and giving that a quick sautee. It’s a great way to get more vegetables in!

  1. Too Much Fat

 

I’d argue to say that the best part of this comfort food is the warm, ooey, gooey cheese sauce! If you do not want to compromise on this, I don’t blame you! Cut your calories by replacing all or some of the meal with vegetables and lean protein, and make a buttery, creamy cheese sauce to enjoy. If your true love is pasta, then I can understand why you’d opt to compromise a bit on the fatty cheese sauce. But have no fear, just because the fat is lower, does not mean that the flavor is inept.

 

Let’s take a card from our fellow vegans and choose a dairy free cheese sauce. This cheese sauce is surprisingly tasty, and it works for picky kids and husbands, too. The base is a mix of softened russet potatoes, carrots, vegan butter and nutritional yeast. It’s processed and thinned out with almond milk (unsweetened unflavored) and seasoned with salt, pepper and dijon mustard.

 

If the idea of vegetables as cheese sauce makes your inner child sad inside, then try this gold cheeze magic from Oh She Glows: 5 ingredient Cheeze Sauce http://ohsheglows.com/2011/08/18/quick-dirty-5-ingredient-vegan-cheeze-sauce-recipe-challenge/

 

If you’re wanting a cheesy flavor without cheese, the nutritional yeast is a game changer. The salt is recommended to mimic salty cheeses like parmesan and the pepper is a great compliment to any cheese sauce.

 

If you want the real stuff, just more calorie friendly, make your own cheese sauce with lower fat ingredients. Choose part skim milk shredded cheese, a small amount of butter, thin with almond milk or skim milk, let it melt and thicken up with your pasta of choice, and season with salt and pepper and maybe some pepper flakes. Add a cup of vegetables, a portion of lean protein, and don’t go back for seconds. Easy, simple, and lower in fat.